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Information & Communication Technologies

Future Networks: Connecting the Digital Society


Filling in the gaps: COGEU sees Europeans switch over to broadband over TV white spaces

Anyone who's switched to digital TV is all too familiar with its upsides: more channels, enhanced image quality or interactivity. But there is more to the ongoing analogue-to-digital switchover than meets the (usual TV viewer's) eye. European researchers seized the opportunity to increase broadband coverage by developing ways to improve the use of locally undistributed frequencies. Widely known as TV white spaces (TVWS) or the "digital dividend", the airwaves refer to the 790MHz to 862 MHz spectrum freed up following the switchover from analogue to digital television. Funded under the EU Commission's 7th Framework Programme for Research and Development, COGEU (Cognitive radio systems for efficient sharing of TV white spaces in European context) project aims to develop the existing radio technology that ensures an efficient use of frequencies and eventually more broadband access. These efforts come in line with the Digital Agenda for Europe actions: adoption and implementation of a common EU policy for radio spectrum, in the larger context of bringing broadband to all Europeans.

Reclaiming the empty airwaves

The digital switchover is expected to conclude in all EU member countries by the end of 2012. It involves switching off the analogue TV signal for a stronger, digital one, received via television antennas (aerials). Internet service providers and operators now claim the unused spectrum in order to enable broadband coverage. Nevertheless, recent efforts to expand broadband coverage have led to an increase in the need for spectrum. Moreover, the ever-growing number of applications and services available to end-users today has turned radio spectrum into a rather scarce public resource. Consequently, the analogue switch-off stands out as a genuine chance for both regulators and operators to tackle spectrum scarcity, just as EU countries are gradually reaching the switchover deadline.

COGEU, short for cognitive radio technology in Europe

One of the latest telecommunications technologies, cognitive radio scans the spectrum for TV white spaces and ensures their efficient use in order to achieve communication with no harmful interference from commercial TV channels. Broadband over white spaces brings about business opportunities, leading to citizens' social inclusion within the digital society. COGEU enhances cognitive radio technology in order to meet the socio-economic purposes of extending broadband coverage.

An emerging business model for better European regulation and economic growth

COGEU proposes a new approach towards spectrum trading. After white spaces have been assigned for free access in given areas, a broker manages the secondary market and allocates spectrum rights according to needs and purpose of bandwidth use. This also helps towards a harmonized EU radio spectrum regulation.
Apart from encouraging market competition, the redefined use of such frequencies is expected to bring an estimated $3.9bn to $7.3bn in economic value each year.

Never miss that game again – WiFi, mobile TV and LTE over white spaces

Haven't got TV-on-demand to watch the weekend game? Plenty of other options to choose from, including your smartphone, tablet or laptop. COGEU has set up a geo-location database, which separates bands that are shared and the ones exclusively used, as a result of secondary trading. As a result, traded bands guarantee the highest quality of service for live streaming and HD content, with no interference from other users.  

Program Marking and Special Event (PMSE) systems also benefit from COGEU's efforts in improving cognitive radio. PMSE equipment is needed for flawless, wireless video and/or audio transmissions at various large events (live concerts, sports events), breaking news reports, live political addresses etc. Cognitive radio technology, alongside the secondary trading model, ensures PMSE's functioning at its highest potential.

Safety first: high speed connections for preventing crime and tackling hazards

COGEU tackles public safety by ensuring more reliable wireless communications in the event of weather warnings, traffic jams, child abduction or natural disasters. Broadband on exclusive white spaces guarantees the flawless functioning of databases, video and voice applications that have become vital for public safety workers.

The path to standardisation

Given COGEU's remarkable progress, halfway to completion, the project stands out as another prominent example of EU research in the field of future networks. The prototype for TV white space use it is designing will be showcased in Munich and Bratislava. Test-beds are also in the making, studying the co-existence of various technologies.
COGEU has contributed to the IEEE P1900.6 standard, helping develop new sensing techniques for the next generation radio spectrum management. Also, COGEU is currently working with the ETSI (European Telecommunication Standardization Institute) RRS group (Reconfigurable Radio Systems). Reconfigurable radio systems rely on software enabling radio interfaces to adapt to all environments, while ensuring a better quality of service for end-users and possibly new applications.
Related project information:
  • Duration: 36 months
  • Start date: 01/01/2010
  • End date: 31/12/2012
  • Total Cost: 5,113,696 €
  • EU Contribution: 3,383,365 €