Ofcom says Google white space trial maintains UK lead

Ofcom said the UK remains at the forefront of TV white space technology developments in Europe, as it revealed Google is the latest big-name company to join a series of trials of the unlicensed spectrum.

Philip Marnick, Ofcom Spectrum Policy group director

Ofcom's Spectrum Policy group director, Philip Marnick

The UK regulator revealed Google and ZSL London Zoo are using white space spectrum to stream live footage of the zoo's animals on YouTube, in the latest of several on-going trials of the spectrum in the country. Ofcom stated the tests could pave the way for commercial deployment of white space spectrum nationwide in 2015.

In a statement, the regulator explains that white space is the gaps between radio spectrum that exist between frequency bands used by digital TV services. Ofcom sees the technology as a key means of meeting demand for mobile broadband services in the UK.

TV white space spectrum can travel further than Bluetooth or Wi-Fi technology, and can penetrate walls more easily than those technologies, Ofcom stated.

Philip Marnick, group director of Ofcom's Spectrum Policy Group said: "In a world where consumers' demand for data services is experiencing huge growth, it is essential we find the most efficient ways to share the airwaves. White space technology could be one way of meeting this demand."

There are currently seven trials of white space technology taking place in the UK as part of Ofcom's programme, including the latest Google test. Marnick said the trials "are an important first step in Ofcom understanding whether white space can be used in other spectrum bands."

Microsoft is another big-name technology company that is taking part in Ofcom's trials. The U.S. company teamed with the University of Strathclyde to test external Wi-Fi and webcam backhaul. UK operator BT was also unveiled as one of Ofcom's technology partners when the regulator first announced its test scheme a year ago.

Analysys Mason principal analyst Janette Stewart in April noted that white space is often touted as a means of deploying wireless broadband services in rural areas, and could offer "a more consistent level of service quality than traditional licence-exempt operation is able to offer."

However, Stewart added that quality of service will be key to using white space to provide wireless broadband--particularly to customers "who are accustomed to receiving consistent levels of service quality from wired networks".

For more:
- see Ofcom's white space statement
- view current trial partners [PDF]
- read this Analysis Mason article

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