Ofcom clears white space for launch; expects first services by year-end

Ofcom predicted the first commercial services using white space technology will be available in the UK by the end of 2015, after approving the use of the technology as a bearer of mobile broadband traffic.

Philip Marnick, Ofcom Spectrum Policy group director

Philip Marnick, Ofcom Spectrum Group director

The UK regulator announced it is pressing ahead with key spectrum and frequency sharing specifications that will enable industry to utilise white space spectrum for mobile broadband services without interfering with existing equipment operating in white spaces.

Ofcom explained the term 'white space' refers to the gaps between radio spectrum frequency bands. The regulator opened the door to trials of the 'gaps' in 2014, in a bid to spur development of new wireless services.

Trials of the technology conducted as part of Ofcom's programme included a live video stream of animals at the ZSL London Zoo, a machine to machine-capable (M2M) flood defence network, Wi-Fi style services at a University, and Internet connectivity for ships in and around the Orkney Islands in the far north of the country.

The regulator said it will use databases to avoid interference between new wireless services and existing white space users, such as terrestrial digital TV service providers. The databases will communicate with all devices attempting to access the white space frequency, providing technical and power constraints for each devices based on an assessment of the unit's location, frequencies, and the time of day.

"Spectrum is an important but limited resource, which is why we're exploring new ways of unlocking its potential, while balancing the needs of different users," explained Philip Marnick, director of Ofcom's Spectrum Group. "Ofcom is laying the foundations for industry to use database controlled spectrum sharing to deliver innovative new services to benefit consumers and businesses," he added.

Ofcom's white space trials attracted big names including Google, which teamed up for the ZSL London Zoo trial, and Microsoft, which teamed with the University of Strathclyde to test external Wi-Fi and webcam backhaul.

Analysts previously noted white space could also be used to improve broadband coverage in rural areas. White space can travel further and penetrate walls more easily than Bluetooth or Wi-Fi technologies, Ofcom explained in a prior announcement.

Ofcom's acting CEO, Steve Unger, said the white space decision "helps ensure the UK takes a leading role in the development of innovative new wireless technology," and is "an important step in helping the UK's wireless infrastructure evolve effectively and efficiently."

For more:
- see this Ofcom announcement

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