Wednesday, 03 November 2010 23:17

Aussies in breakthrough to re-use analogue TV spectrum for new super range Wi-Fi


Australia's CSIRO, the national science organisation which won court cases against major networking names for using 802.11 wireless technologies without paying for them, has just made another important breakthrough in wireless technology which will re-use soon to be decommission analogue spectrum still currently delivering analogue TV signals until the nationwide 2013 cut-off date.

Australia already has a hand in the modern day wireless revolution through its national science organisation, the CSIRO, which is 'The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation', Australia's national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

Now, the CSIRO is at it again, claiming a 'major breakthough in wireless technology' which is 'designed to bring broadband to people living beyond [Australia's upcoming] optical fibre network', and will be officially unveiled today, the 4th of November, in Sydney.

CSIRO has dubbed the technology 'Ngara', with this choice of word explained on page two, and says the 'first half' of its technology will 'enable multiple users to upload information at the same time, without reducing their individual systems' data transfer rate of 12 Mbps.'

So much for all those people doubting the impressive ways wireless technology keeps evolving and who think optical fibre is the future proofed solution to life, the universe and everything, despite that cable only having a 25 year lifespan before needing replacement - if our current and successive governments even manage to build the damn thing on time and not still be stuffing around with it 25 years later.

But while the government ploughs through with its nationally bankrupting optical fibre network, Australia's hard working scientists do the hard work disappointing lazy and sloppy politicians refuse to do, creating the future that politicians do their utmost to rubbish and ruin.

However the CSIRO knows which hand feeds it, and acknowledges the reality of the budget and free market-stretching political creation that is the national broadband network, with the CSIRO's Centre Director of ICT, Dr Ian Oppermann diplomatically stating: 'Someone who doesn't live near the fibre network could get to it using our new wireless system. They'd be able to upload a clip to YouTube in real-time and their data rate wouldn't change even if five of their neighbours also started uploading videos.'

Wow - multiple uploads in real time without changing the data rate even if 5 other people are downloading at the same time. Not bad at all - imagine what they'll achieve over the next few years if we're already achieving this! But that's not all.

But what else? What's also very impressive about this new wireless technology? You've got to read on to page two to find out!

Dr Oppermann also adds: 'But the really impressive part is the spectral efficiency our team has achieved', with the CSIRO's release noting that 'radio spectrum is a finite and highly valuable, natural resource' before Dr Oppermann continues'¦

He states that: 'even with just half of our system completed, CSIRO is already helping define the future of wireless technology'.

Incredibly, the CSIRO says that its 'spectral efficiency is three times that of the closest comparable technology and the data rate is more than 10 times the industry's recently declared minimum standard.'

Wow. Wireless might just blow past fibre one day after all, eh? It won't happen overnight, but if the CSIRO keeps up with its technological breakthroughs, it probably won't take 10 years, either.

So, what's so important about spectral efficiency?

Glad you asked. The CSIRO notes that: 'Spectral efficiency is about packing as many bits of information as possible into the channel (frequency range) allocated for its transmission. CSIRO's 12 Mbps, six-user system works in the space of one television channel, which is seven megahertz (MHz) wide.'

The organisation continues, observing that it is 'achieving spectral efficiency of 20 bits per second per Hertz (20 b/s/Hz).'

The technology has impressed Gartner's Wireless Research Director, Robin Simpson, who said 'the most promising aspect of CSIRO's Ngara technology is that it aims to re-use old analog TV channels.'

Mr Simpson continued, stating that: 'This means any rural property or business that can currently receive TV signals could in future connect to high-speed internet just by using a new set-top box.'

Unsatisfied with simply making technological breakthroughs, the CSIRO is naturally pushing ahead to finish the job, with the organisation 'currently completing the research and testing of the downlink part of the system, which will also run at 12 Mbps per user.'

Ok, so at 12Mbps there's still a large gap between 12 and 100Mbps or even 1 gigabit, but technological evolution doesn't stand still, and given that Australia's current government is as determined as you can imagine to deliver an optical fibre broadband network whether the country can afford it or not, wired technology will evolve, too, but today's announcement is impressive - and anticipated, given all the talk about being able to re-use analogue TV spectrum once it was available again to use.

Now the technological breakthrough required to properly do that has emerged.

So, why did the CSIRO use the word 'Ngara'?

It's because 'Ngara is a word of the Darug people meaning to listen, hear and think', with the 'Darug people [being] the traditional owners of the land on which the ICT Centre's Sydney lab sits', with the project also supported by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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