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Start-up launches whitespace radio set for M2M market
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Start-up launches whitespace radio set for M2M market

Posted by Steve RogersonJune 13, 2011

What is claimed to be the first production wireless radio system to use the whitespace spectrum freed up by the move from analogue to digital television has been introduced by start-up company Neul for use in M2M communications.

Neul was formed late last year by ex-employees of Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) and its CEO James Collier was the former CTO at CSR.

“We are trying to do the same as CSR but with longer range technology that focuses on the M2M market,” said VP of marketing Luke D’Arcy in an interview with M2M Now. “Our grand vision is M2M. We see huge growth with smart metering. There is a lot of demand for M2M.”

The company’s first product called Neul Net comprises a basestation and a portable battery-powered unit. When the basestation is mounted, it interrogates an online database and uses GPS to locate itself. It then finds what TV channels are free and sets up a link to terminal devices up to 10km away.

It can transmit at up to 16Mbit/s per channel and a typical location can have ten or more channels available. There can be up to 150MHz of whitespace spectrum available, but D’Arcy doesn’t see it being used in this way.

“While we can achieve very high bandwidth,” he said, “the way we see the system being used is to enable a huge number of very low bandwidth links. Each basestation can have up to a million devices connected to it and it can run low data rate modes down to 10kbit/s.”

The portable unit is currently in an A5 sized box, but D’Arcy said that was a temporary system. A box half the size will be available by the end of the year but the main plan is to put the portable connectivity into a custom asic module that can be embedded into other products.

The aim is for samples of this to be available in the first half of next year with mass production in the second half.

“This will get the cost down to US$5,” said D’Arcy, “with a battery life between ten and 15 years.”

The main applications, D’Arcy believes, will be in smart metering, electronic shelf labelling and asset tracking.

“M2M is a growing market and likely to grow much faster in the future,” he said. “Whitespace radio makes an awful lot of high quality spectrum available. The spectrum isn’t being used and this is a bit of waste when it can be put to an economically useful purpose.”

He said that 4000 basestations could cover the entire UK geographically.

“So for smart metering, you have a solution that could get to every home,” he said.

Neul, pronounced like “fuel”, is based in Cambridge and the name comes from the Gaelic word for “cloud”. It has 16 employees, most of whom previously worked for CSR.

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