Residents of Bohol island province in the Philippines are officially among the first in the world to experience the benefits of the much-talked about TV White Space (TVWS) technology first-hand.

Earlier this year, the Philippines' Information and Communications Technology (ICT) office of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and partners from the private sector launched a pilot test of TVWS in six seaside towns on Bohol island. TVWS will be initially offered as a "public service to enable connectivity for education, healthcare and e-government services," said undersecretary Louis Napoleon C. Casambre, executive director of the DOST-ICT Office, in a statement. He added that the technology will eventually be available commercially but only after the implementation of policies specific to TVWS.

TVWS refers to the vacant frequencies located between broadcast TV channels in the range between 54 MHz and 806 MHz-you can think of them as TV channels that show grey fuzzy displays. In the past, these white spaces were used to counter interference between adjacent channels but they are no longer necessary, said Casambre.

Since the demand for wireless data traffic is growing and TVWS is said to be able to better penetrate barriers to Internet connectivity, such as buildings and thick foliage, there is interest in utilising these unused TV frequencies. TVWS is also considered a cost-effective means for Internet/data delivery as less base stations are required to provide coverage for a given area as compared to existing wireless technologies.

"With one base station, we can cover 300 square kilometers, which in Bohol means covering 30 public schools, a number of health centres and village centres," Casambre told news agency Rappler.

The TVWS technology is currently being used to add Bohol's residents to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources' database. By doing do, the Philippines government is able to offer healthcare and insurance to these Filipinos who might be initially left out because they live in isolated areas. The database will also enable the authorities to easily identify casualties and missing residents in times of natural calamities.

The TVWS pilot is part of DOST's Smarter Philippines programme. Launched in 2012, the programme aims to improve the country's global competitiveness by developing and deploying smarter technologies.