UK's Ofcom opening door for TV white space devices

Telecommunications regulator Ofcom announced a framework that could enable the use of TV white space devices in the United Kingdom starting next year.

Ofcom is proposing to allow TV white space devices to operate on an unlicensed basis over UHF TV band frequencies between 470 MHz and 790 MHz. The devices would not be allowed to start transmitting until getting clearance from an online database qualified by Ofcom.

The database will provide updated information on the location of white spaces and the power level that devices would need to be restricted to in order to avoid interfering with existing licensed users of the spectrum, which include digital terrestrial television and wireless microphone users, said the agency.

The United States has been a leader in encouraging the use of TV white space devices (TVBDs), and the FCC has already approved Spectrum Bridge and Telcordia--now an Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) unit--as TV white space database administrators.

TV white space "represents a fundamentally different approach to using spectrum by searching and recycling unused gaps in the airwaves. This could prove critical in averting a global spectrum capacity crunch, as consumers demand more bandwidth over different devices," said Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive.

Ofcom will accept responses to its plan till the closing date of Jan. 10, 2013. The agency will subsequently notify the European Commission of its proposed technical regulations for white space devices, which will then inform other Member States of the plan and allow them to comment.

Ofcom said it also intends plans to finalize the arrangements for databases and the technical parameters needed to ensure that white space devices can operate harmoniously with existing spectrum users next year, potentially enabling the launch of TV white space technologies could toward the end of 2013.

The U.K. is looking at the use of TV white spaces to deliver wireless data communications across broad swaths of towns and cities, with one focus to include rural broadband services. Machine-to-machine communications, such as wireless utility meters, could also be enabled through TV white space devices.

U.K. company Weightless has been pushing its technology for use in white space-based M2M applications and recently established a Special Interest Group supported by ARM Holdings, Cable & Wireless Worldwide, CSR and Neul.

The concept of spectrum sharing upon which the concept of TV white-space use is built is gaining more attention as regulators seek ways to alleviate spectrum crunches and encourage more wireless competition. In September, the European Commission suggested that new regulatory approaches based on spectrum sharing could be applied not just to new spectrum holders but current licensees as well.

For more:
- see this Ofcom release and webpage
- see this Mobile Business Briefing article
- see this The Register article
- see this ComputerWorld UK article

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