Australian Agency Unveils Wireless Broadband Via TV Channels

Australia's national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) has unveiled a new technology that it says will allow re-use of old analog TV channels--including VHF channels--to provide Internet linkage at up to 20 bits per second per Hertz of spectrum. The CSIRO system allows six users to use one seven MHz wide Australian TV channel (a bit larger than the U.S. six MHz TV channels) to upload data at 12 Mbps without reducing the data bandwidth available to other users. CSIRO is currently completing the research and testing the downlink part of the system, which will also run at 12 Mbps per user.

CSIRO has dubbed the technology "Ngara," which is a word in the Darug dialect of indigenous Australians, which means to listen, hear and think. Wireless Research Director for Gartner, Robin Simpson said the most promising aspect of Ngara is that it aims to re-use old analog TV channels.

"This means any rural property or business that can currently receive TV signals could in future connect to high-speed internet just by using a new set-top box," said Simpson.

The CSIRO news release was short on technical data but a Computerworld article from last April CSIRO developing 100Mbit wireless broadband indicates that the system uses OFDM. An article in Computerworld this week, CSIRO wireless broadband over TV becoming a reality says that the technology could serve up to 1,000 homes in a roughly 15 to 20 km radius around a broadcast tower. As the system would use existing broadcasting towers, the cost to roll out the technology is expected to be substantially less than for an LTE system.

A system that serves 1,000 people using 7 MHz of spectrum within a 15 to 20 km radius obviously wouldn't be of much value in densely populated areas, but in rural areas of Australia--and possibly in rural parts of the United States--it could be a way to provide high speed Internet service to homes, farms and small communities where DSL and cable service is not available, and without the latency present in geostationary satellite links.

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. As vice president of Broadcast Technology for NBCUniversal Local, H. Douglas Lung leads NBC and Telemundo-owned stations’ RF and transmission affairs, including microwave, radars, satellite uplinks, and FCC technical filings. Beginning his career in 1976 at KSCI in Los Angeles, Lung has nearly 50 years of experience in broadcast television engineering. Beginning in 1985, he led the engineering department for what was to become the Telemundo network and station group, assisting in the design, construction and installation of the company’s broadcast and cable facilities. Other projects include work on the launch of Hawaii’s first UHF TV station, the rollout and testing of the ATSC mobile-handheld standard, and software development related to the incentive auction TV spectrum repack.
A longtime columnist for TV Technology, Doug is also a regular contributor to IEEE Broadcast Technology. He is the recipient of the 2023 NAB Television Engineering Award. He also received a Tech Leadership Award from TV Tech publisher Future plc in 2021 and is a member of the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society and the Society of Broadcast Engineers.