MANILA, Philippines - The government is hoping to improve the country's internet penetration rate, as it prepares to deploy a new wireless data communications standard called TV White Space (TVWS) technologies in the first half of the year.
Officials of the Department of Science and Technology's Information and Communications Technology Office (DOST-ICTO) said the Philippines can benefit from TV White Space technology.
"TVWS is an ideal wireless data delivery medium for the Philippines, with its long distance propagation characteristics and the ability of its signals to travel over water and through thick foliage, we are hopeful that this will be the technology to bring connectivity to rural areas and bridge the digital divide," Science Undersecretary Louis Casambre said.
TV White Spaces, or the unutilized television frequencies in the VHF and UHF bands, has been approved for data communications use by the US Federal Communications Commission in 2010. At present, available TVWS equipment can deliver up to 6 Mbps of data throughput at a maximum range of 10 kilometers.
Casambre said the new TVWS technolgy will bridge the "digital divide" where only 47% of cities and municipalities have broadband access and only 20% of the households have computers.
He noted that only 33.6 million or 35% of the total 95 million Filipinos have access to internet. This is an improvement from 2011's penetration rate of 29%.
"With the cost of computers and access devices going down significantly, connectivity is the issue that needs to be addressed. A good portion of our population lives in remote areas with no internet or wired broadband internet access infrastructure, essentially excluding them from the benefits and building capacity of the internet," Casambre said.
Science and Technology Secretary Mario G. Montejo said with the use of TV White Space technologies, internet access can be provided to rural areas.
"TV White Space technologies can also be utilized to support government initiatives requiring data connectivity such as sensors used by project NOAH for disaster mitigation, thin clients for education currently being developed by ICTO for DepEd through the Cloud Top project, as well as for tele-health initiatives being done by the UP TeleHealth Center," he said.
DOST-ICTO said they consulted the private sector and experts on the on what issues need to be addressed before adopting TVWS technologies.
"Right now TVWS is still very much in the experimental phase both in terms of technology as well as the policy regime, we plan to maintain constant consultation with various stakeholders during the process, particularly that of encumbent users of the spectrum, we still have a lot to do, but we are confident that we can make this happen and are excited about what TV White Spaces can do for the Philippines," Casambre said.
DOST-ICTO is planning to conduct pilot test of broadband connectivity using TVWS in selected public schools in remote areas in Bohol province.
Included in the pilot test is the providing connectivity for the Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries (Ecofish project) in Talibon and Tubigon, Bohol for reef and fishing vessel monitoring.