Ofcom picks BT, Microsoft and Google for 'major' white spaces trial

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Ofcom unveiled the lineup of companies that will participate in what the UK regulator is calling "Europe's first major pilot" of white space technology, revealing that industry heavyweights such as BT, Microsoft and Google will be among the companies taking part.

Over the next six months around 20 public and private organisations will be participating in the pilot by running trials to test a variety of innovative applications, Ofcom said. These applications will range from sensors that monitor the behaviour of cities to dynamic information for road users and rural broadband in hard to reach places.

White space technology "could help support the next wave of wireless innovation," UK telecoms regulator added. It said trials will investigate the potential for white spaces, which is said is one example of spectrum sharing, to help meet the growing demands being placed on the UK's wireless infrastructure.

BT and technology specialist Neul will work with the Department for Transport to test the potential enhancement of traffic information as part of a wider project along the A14 between Felixstowe and Cambridge. Microsoft will test how white spaces can provide people with access to free Wi-Fi in Glasgow, which has the lowest level of broadband take-up of all UK cities.

Google, meanwhile, is one of the companies that has expressed interest in testing intelligent databases that ensure white spaces can be used without causing harmful interference to other devices. Other companies include Nominet, LS telcom, iconectiv, Key Bridge, Fairspectrum and Spectrum Bridge.

Ofcom said half of all adults in the UK now own a smartphone and one in four households has a tablet computer. The regulator commented that future demand for more data capacity will also be driven by machine-to-machine communications or the "Internet of Things"; indeed, Cisco forecasts that 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020.

"In the future it won't be just mobiles and tablets that are connected to the internet; billions of other things including cars, crops, coffee machines and cardiac monitors will also be connected, using tiny slivers of spectrum to get online," Ofcom CTO Steve Unger said in a statement. "However, there isn't an unlimited supply of spectrum to meet this extraordinary demand. This is why we need to explore new ways of unlocking the potential of spectrum-- like white space technology--to get the most from this valuable national resource."

For more:
- see this Ofcom release

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