Globe Telecom is the first Philippine telecommunications company to adopt the TV white space frequency for broadband use in line with its commitment to improve the state of internet in the country especially in remote and outlying areas in the country. The move would maximize available spectrum given rapid increases in data consumption amid growing smartphone penetration.
In partnership with the Information and Communications Technology Office of the Department of Science and Technology, Globe is currently pilot-testing the use of the frequency for broadband service in several areas in the country, including Bohol and Cebu. The initiative is expected to provide an alternative wireless network that will provide data connectivity in far flung areas in Visayas and Mindanao.
“To help improve the internet experience of our customers, Globe is working on enhancing cell site density of our network, a prerequisite in providing additional bandwidth capacity amid exponential growth in data use. However, building a cell site has proven to be a major challenge for us and we couldn’t build cell sites as fast as we want to. We hope that making use of available spectrum would enhance bandwidth capacities and allow our network to transmit enormous amount of data at faster speeds,” Globe Senior Vice President for Network Technologies Strategy Emmanuel Estrada said, noting that construction of a single cell site involves about 25 permits with at least 8 months lead time.
According to Estrada, another obstacle in rolling out broadband service in rural areas is that the concentration of establishments and households does not make it economically viable for telecommunication providers to deploy broadband facilities. He said the TV white space technology is expected to address this concern. TV white space is considered an ideal wireless data delivery medium in the Philippines because of its long distance propagation features and the ability of its signals to travel over water and through thick foliage. The latest TV white space equipment can deliver up to 10 megabits per second of data throughput at a maximum range of 10 kilometers and can accommodate numerous customers at any given time.
Estrada said increasing demand for wireless data traffic and growing pressure to network capacity has spurred an interest to utilize these unallocated portions of the radio spectrum. The TV white space’ long range of reach means utilization of this frequency for broadband use would require less number of cell sites to provide coverage for a given geographic location compared with existing wireless technologies, he said. This means that the use of the TV white space spectrum for propagation of broadband technologies is more cost efficient for ISP providers.
TV white space refers to the either unassigned or unused frequencies located between broadcast TV channels, which can be used to provide wireless data connectivity to remote communities in the country. These vacant frequencies are located between broadcast TV channels in the UHF and VHF range of 54 MHz and 806 MHz. Utilizing TV white space for propagation of internet service is relatively a new technology as TV broadcast began transitioning from analog to digital, paving the way for the availability of more TV channels or frequencies that could be utilized for broadband use.
DOST Undersecretary Louis Casambre, for his part, said there is a need to enhance internet service in the provinces, stressing the use of the TV white space for broadband use would provide data connectivity among local government units and national agencies, hospitals and health centers as well as among educational institutions in rural areas.
The ongoing TV White Space pilot testing in the country is the most extensive in the Asian region. So far, only the United States has already undertaken commercial deployment while many other countries are holding trials.
In addition to the TV white space frequency, Globe is also calling for the harmonization and equitable distribution of the unused 700 MHz band as part of its bid to enhance network capacities, emphasizing that utilization of this particular spectrum would allow the telecommunication companies to provide broadband and data services at faster speeds and in a more cost-efficient manner. Even with the utilization of the TV white space frequency, Globe needs an allocation from the 700 MHz as this spectrum has existing technology for state-of-the-art LTE, currently not available for TV white space frequency.