18 December 2013 12:55

Collaborative research between Lancaster University and telecoms giant BT has resulted in a mathematical solution to a telecommunications problem which could lead to benefits such as improved access to rural broadband, free wi-fi hotspots and improved road safety information.

Jamie Fairbrother, a PhD student at Lancaster University, spent six months with BT on a research project looking at TV white spaces (TVWS) – the parts of the TV broadcasting spectrum that are not being used in a particular location and can be used for different types of wireless communication - but only if care is taken to avoid interference.

TV whitespaces can be used for smart metering in the home, or to provide an isolated rural community with wireless broadband, to provide free wi-fi hotspots in cities, or to transmit live traffic information along busy highways. Trials are on-going to determine the effectiveness of TVWS in these areas.

Jamie’s research developed a more accurate method of calculating the maximum transmission power that can be sent and received at specific locations than the current proposed method.

It is expected that his mathematical solution will inform the industry regulator – Ofcom – in setting up a regulatory framework for the use of white space .

Jamie Fairbrother said: “By participating in this project I have broadened my knowledge of probability theory, simulation and programming.

“It is particularly rewarding that my work is being used in a real trial of TV whitespaces, and could influence the Ofcom TVWS regulations.”

Jamie’s solution addresses an industry problem of accurately measuring the amount of TVWS available at specific locations.

The maximum power transmittable using TVWS varies from location to location. A location with a higher maximum power has greater spare capacity for additional services – such as rural broadband - to be used. If not enough spare capacity is available then transmitting additional services could affect existing services – such as people’s TV reception. It is therefore important to be able to accurately work out the maximum transmission power at specific locations around the country.

Keith Briggs from BT said: “This has been an excellent example of a research project which needed solid mathematical input, as well as engineering knowledge.

“We used probability theory, modern mathematical software, and simulation techniques to deliver an efficient algorithm which allowed the implementation of real working TVWS systems by BT engineers.”

The collaborative research project was funded by £15,000 through the Industrial Mathematics Knowledge Transfer Partnership and supervised by Keith Briggs, BT, and Amanda Turner, Lancaster University. Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are a UK government-funded scheme that enables organisations to take advantage of the wide range of expertise available in the University.