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    Jun 17, 2014

    Super Wi-Fi on the horizon

    UNABLE to answer an urgent e-mail in the middle of the golf course, or post photos on Instagram during a visit to a new - and huge - tourist attraction here because there's little to no wireless Internet connection?

    How about not being able to log onto Wi-Fi while walking along Orchard Road as you try to save on your mobile data?

    In the near future, these may no longer be issues, thanks to a new TV White Spaces technology, or Super Wi-Fi as it is more colloquially known.

    The technology relies on unused radio frequencies in TV broadcast bands - the white spaces - for wireless-broadband use.

    It is said to have a much farther range than traditional Wi-Fi, which could make Super Wi-Fi useful to deploy in large areas where installing Wi-Fi hot spots can be difficult.

    Yesterday, headway was made towards laying the rules for organisations to deploy the technology.

    The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) will be implementing a set of regulations for the use of airwaves in these white spaces from November.

    This was announced last night by Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim at the ministerial forum on infocomm technology at the National Design Centre.

    Consumers can expect to use Super Wi-Fi in products 18 to 24 months from now, when chipsets become available for manufacturers to include in products such as routers and laptops.

    The regulations come after a public consultation last year, as well as recommendations from the Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group.

    Many commercial Super Wi-Fi tests were done by the group in more than 40 locations islandwide, including Gardens by the Bay.

    Based on the findings from the tests, the group found that the radio frequencies used for Super Wi-Fi cover a wider range and can co-exist well with other radio technologies without causing bad interference.

    "Typically, Wi-Fi has a range of between 100m and 200m. As for (Super Wi-Fi) technology, depending on various factors, the range can be between 1km and 10km," said the pilot group's spokesman and Microsoft's technology policy director, Jeffrey Yan.

    Super Wi-Fi's ability to penetrate obstacles such as buildings, trees and hills means it can be used in dense urban settings such as Orchard Road, and remote areas over a long distance, such as golf courses, added Mr Yan.

    The regulations include equipment requirements and radio-frequency channels to be made available for Super Wi-Fi.

    Dr Yaacob said: "It is expected to result in greater capacity and data connectivity for wireless broadband Internet access. The framework will encourage and facilitate businesses and service providers to develop new wireless services and applications, or utilise (Super Wi-Fi) to supplement and enhance their existing networks."

    Businesses which decide to use Super Wi-Fi may do so without applying for a licence from the IDA, though they still have to comply with rules.

    Could Super Wi-Fi then be eventually used as an alternative to wireless local area networks such as regular Wi-Fi?

    Unlikely, said Michael Stephens, telecoms equipment-maker Coriant's vice-president for Asia-Pacific global services.

    "Higher bandwidth is needed for Internet connection, especially on smartphones, tablets and laptops, more so in an age where we demand to be connected 24 hours a day, We cannot expect (Super Wi-Fi) to be an alternative for all Internet broadband access. It is more of a complementary option than an alternative to current Wi-Fi systems, potentially extending their reach and penetration," said Mr Stephens.

    For client services executive Bhuva Narayanan, Super Wi-Fi sounds like a good thing to have.

    "But can we be assured that it will guarantee seamless connectivity? Also, will it be available islandwide in Singapore or only in certain areas?"she said.