By Tom Noda
BOHOL ? The Philippines has earned a new mark in the field of ICT with the latest roll-out of the government’s pilot sites for TV White Space (TVWS) technology, now tagged as the most extensive in the region.
“TVWS in the Philippines is now the largest one in Asia,” said Louis Casambre, executive director of the ICT Office of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
Casambre, together with ICTO’s private company partner Nityo Infotech, made the declaration during a press briefing on Friday, Feb. 21, at the Tubigon Telephone Exchange provincial office in Tubigon town in Bohol.
Pilot testing of the technology after the Bohol earthquake and Yolanda destruction in Visayas provided critical communications for relief and disaster efforts. This also helped both local and foreign governments and NGO?s perform the necessary services.
TVWS refers to the vacant frequencies located between broadcast TV channels in the UHF and VHF range between 54 MHz and 806 MHz. It establishes connectivity that functions similar to Wi-Fi technology.
TVWS is considered an ideal wireless data delivery medium for the Philippines, because of its long distance propagation features and the ability of its signals to travel over water and through thick foliage.
The ICT Office and Singapore-based systems integrator Nityo Infotech tapped TVWS for various applications like connecting local government units (LGUs) and national agencies, hospitals and health center-stage, educational facilities, and healthcare centers.
For instance, remote areas of Bohol were connected using TVWS, facilitating fisherfolk registration in the municipalities of Talibon, Trinidad, Bien Unido, Ubay, and Carlos P. Garcia.
Nityo Infotech is funding the development of TVWS pilot sites with $5-million (P225 million) investment.
Both ICTO and Nityo Infotech are testing the technology to prove the viability of TVWS for commercial purposes. The available TVWS equipment can deliver up to 6 megabits per second of data throughput at a maximum range of 10 kilometers.
The partners noted that the number of deployments of the TVWS pilot sites in the country has allowed the Philippines to surpass Singapore and Africa, and is now closely trailing the technology’s forerunners such as the US and United Kingdom.
Casambre said the ICT Office aims to deploy TVWS in more than 100 sites in Bohol by end of February this year.
“The plan initially is to use TVWS as a public service, allowing for connectivity for education, eHealth, eGovernment services, deployment of environmental sensor networks such as those used by Pagasa and Project Noah, as well as to provide Internet access in public places such as barangays halls and town plazas,? Casambre said.
He added the pilot project is also meant to determine the right policies for TVWS.
“We?re actually rolling this out slowly. It?s a new technology and there are some policies that need to be addressed that are specific to this because we?re using the frequency spectrum originally allocated for TV broadcasters,” Casambre said. “We plan to ensure that the policy framework is in place before this technology is used commercially.”
Casambre explained white spaces existed naturally between used channels, since assigning nearby transmissions to immediately adjacent channels will cause destructive interference.
Bettina Quimson, deputy executive director of the ICT Office, said that there will be more TVWS pilot sites to follow in Leyte province. The testing of the technology was expanded to the Leyte-Samar areas after typhoon Yolanda.
“We plan to also launch USAID?s ecofish project that allows fisherfolk to monitor fishing areas online using this particular technology,” Quimson said.
Roy Del Rosario, managing director of Nityo Infotech in Asia-Pacific, said providing connectivity to rural areas will allow them to host businesses such business process outsourcing, consulting, professional services, among others, at a much competitive cost.
“We are very passionate about this and are willing to invest to make this happen together with the government because we know the benefits of TV White Space for everyone and the economic growth of the Philippines will definitely grow double for this point in time,” Del Rosario said.