CSIRO invents breakthrough wireless broadband technology for bush

Australia's science agency CSIRO has unveiled a new wireless technology bringing fast broadband to the bush via analog TV signals.

If you are one of the 7% of Australians who live in a location outside the proposed fibre optic NBN, but can receive a traditional television signal, all you’ll need for great wireless broadband is a new set-top box.

Being showcased in Sydney today (Nov.4, 2010), the CSIRO’s new Ngara technology successfully achieves what current mobile wireless services cannot: it allows multiple users to upload data simultaneously without affecting each other’s individual 12Mbps data transfer rate.

CSIRO ICT Centre director Dr Ian Oppermann said: “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.”

Now digital TV has replaced the old analog channels, the frequency is free for other uses, such as mobile broadband. Each house would receive its own signal using its existing TV aerial.

Currently, if several people use the same mobile phone tower to upload data, each person’s speed decreases the more people are online transferring data.

However, YouTube videos should not be the main focus here, as VoIP and Skype style internet communications via audio or video calls need a fast and steady upload speed for successful high quality calls. If you are in the bush and a long way from a town with a doctor, a good video call could mean the difference between a patient’s recovery and further suffering.

Wireless research director for Gartner, Robin Simpson, said one of the best elements about the new wireless technology is it will be able to use old analog TV channels previously seen as obsolete.

The Ngara wireless technology is only half complete, with the all-important downloading aspect of the system still being developed by the CSIRO.

Dr Oppermann said about the progress: “Even with just half of our system completed, CSIRO is already helping define the future of wireless technology.”

Interestingly, the word “Ngara” is an indigenous term taken from the language of the Darug tribe, the traditional owners of the land where the ICT Centre's Sydney laboratory is located. The word means “to listen, hear and think”, which is definitely a suitable moniker for a technology that will help to bring so many far-flung people together with the rest of the world.

The CSIRO believes the most impressive aspect of the new service is its efficient use of radio spectrum. This spectrum is a finite resource, and now accordingly thought to be a very valuable one to human society.

The Ngara technology’s spectral efficiency is three times better than the nearest competing mobile wireless service, while its data rate is over ten times as quick as the recently defined industry standard. What this means in lay terms is the Ngara wireless technology can carry more bits of information to users over transmitted radio frequencies.

Six people can share the space of one TV channel, and each person will receive a quick 12Mbps broadband speed. In terms of education, health, communication and business in bush areas of Australia, this could be a major conduit for social evolution and opportunity.

Until the new technology can be rolled out, mobile wireless broadband is still the best option for rural internet users who cannot acess and ADSL1 broadband connection. Mobile broadband plans from Dodo start from just $9.90 a month, while Optus, Virgin, Vodafone and iPrimus all have great value plans.