TV white space (TVWS) is the name given to parts of the wireless spectrum that were freed up during the shift from analogue to digital TV channels. Using Dynamic Spectrum Management to allow local allocation of the bandwidth TVWS radios offer broadband speeds over several kilometres and the signal can travel through permanent obstacles such as buildings and trees, as well as around terrain.
TVWS is free for anyone to use and build their own network. Given the appealing characteristics of TVWS it is well suited for a range of applications, including providing broadband connectivity to rural communities, delivering wireless connectivity across campuses, and connecting IoT devices.
Following from Nominet’s work with Broadway Partners delivering broadband via TVWS across the UK including Loch Ness, the Isle of Arran and in Wales this analysis reviews the potential across Europe for TV White Space to offer homes, businesses and IoT devices a significant increase in the bandwidth and choice available to them.
Underserved Europe – where is the audience for White Space broadband?
There are almost ten million households in Europe (4% of all European households), millions of square kilometres and tens of thousands of businesses that do not have access to an adequate fixed broadband service. For many years these, often rural and disadvantaged, areas have lacked affordable bandwidth and often have a limited choice of services and suppliers.
TV White Space (TVWS) offers a viable and increasingly attractive alternative for these underserved areas of Europe as well as the world.
As an indication in Europe, Poland, Estonia and Slovakia have a particularly high proportion of households which are not able to access broadband with at least 2Mbps download speeds – 19%, 15% and 11% respectively.
TV White Space shows further promise too. The technology is developing and there are trials underway to push bandwidths up above superfast speeds above 30Mbps. This extends the market that could be addressed considerably with more than forty million Europeans still outside a fixed superfast footprint.
In the graph below we plot the average number of TVWS channels available in a country, roughly analogous to the capacity to deliver bandwidth, against the average of the percentage of households outside 2Mbps and 30Mbps coverage.
Above the red line there are the portions of the market that lack adequate broadband and to the right of the green line there should be plenty of capacity to provide an upgrade using TVWS.
Many markets do well in terms of residential coverage of at least 2Mbps. While Poland and Estonia are obvious targets today there is still plenty of opportunity for TVWS in most markets particularly given the widespread availability of spectrum at these frequencies.
As TVWS progresses to superfast bandwidths and above the residential market opens up significantly. France, Croatia, Finland and even Denmark are well above the red line and have significant local opportunity. Add in the farms and other remote businesses, transport routes and IoT applications and TVWS is a substantial addition to the broadband services available anywhere.
If we break it out using absolute values rather than just percentages, we highlight some other opportunities.
As TVWS develops as a technology it will be able to offer a competitive service across a larger and larger footprint. Superfast bandwidths, 30Mbps and above, are already being tested in the field and this opens up opportunities in a number of markets.
Overall, Poland offers the largest addressable European market for TVWS at the moment. However, when TVWS capability increases up to 50Mbps, France will be the most attractive market for this technology in terms of size the residential market.
There are often issues with broadband service for businesses as well as IoT applications outside the denser urban areas, often in the middle of cities too. The addition of a solution that’s relatively low cost to deploy where the propagation is well understood and leverages an underused asset will be welcome support for ISPs, customers and policy makers across Europe.
The combination of Point Topic’s data and experience in Europe with the powerful models and mapping that Nominet have developed allows us to look in detail at every country in Europe given the right inputs. The data represented in the full report is aggregated from detailed, granular data, research and modelling across some of the more interesting markets where we have strong supporting information sets on broadband as well as TV antennas and local spectrum conditions.
The data used in the case studies is based on Point Topic’s European Kilometre Grid and Nominet’s more granular modelling for the local spectrum available. The outputs have been presented at NUTS3 level for this analysis but more detail is readily available.
With data on the number of channels in use, TV antenna height, the local geography in addition to the broadband layers we can establish an outline of the market. We have generated outputs for France, Germany and Sweden.