LONDON – Ofcom, the U.K. government's communications regulator, has issued a statement that white-space radio could be used for a mix of rural broadband, Wi-Fi services and machine-to-machine communications and that the technology could be launched across the country as soon as 2013.
Ofcom said the white-space spectrum provides a considerable unused resource, comparable to the amount of spectrum currently used for 3G cellular communications. It added that the UK is the first country in Europe to progress plans for its introduction.
The technology works by searching for gaps in the spectrum reserved for television broadcasts. This spectrum is not used in all locations at all times and in the U.K. white space television frequencies typically lie between 470- and 790-MHz. Ofcom said it was also considering the extension of the scheme to white spaces in the bands used by FM radio services.
In statement Ofcom confirmed that, as expected, it has decided to make white-space usage license exempt on the condition that white-space transmissions do not interfere with other users of the spectrum.
The technology has the advantage over higher frequency spectrum in that that signals can travel large distances, like TV signals, and propagate through walls, allowing for improved geo-location services and such services as smart metering and inventory control.
"At an early stage Ofcom identified the potential of white spaces, which are currently lying vacant all around us. Within Europe, we have been leading the way to try to harness this capacity without causing harmful interference to existing users of the spectrum," said Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, in a statement.
The intended applications include enhanced Wi-Fi services and broadband services for rural locations. Trials of the latter are being undertaken on the island of Bute in Scotland, Ofcom said. Ofcom also mentioned machine-to-machine communications, an application being pursued by startup company Neul Ltd. (Cambridge, England).
The use of white-space radio differs from conventional radio in that it must make reference to an updateable database which returns details of radio-frequencies and power levels allowable at different locations.
Ofcom stated that it has decided to allow third-party providers to develop databases. Meanwhile a UK law still needs to be passed to make white-space devices license exempt.
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