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.
Ofcom and the current FCC are similarly deluded, in my opinion.
First off, Ofcom would be wiser to take their DAB band (the European version of digital radio) the heck out of the high VHF and L bands, and instead use a scheme like IBOC or the German DRM, to fit digital radio in the FM and AM bands. Alongside analog radio, for a transitional period.
Secondly, there is no way anyone can claim that the FM band, and even what's left of the TV bands, provides a lot of useful spectrum for cellular designs. The very fact that these lower frequencies propagate far is what makes them UNSUITABLE for cells. Except in rural settings, perhaps, where cell densities are very low. These bands are most useful for broadcast, NOT for small cells in two-way wireless networks.
Also, the entire FM band is 20 MHz wide, right? So the entire FM only provides for a single 3G channel, and only 1/5 of the channel width envisioned for 4G. The FCC is trying to yank an extra 100+ MHz away from TV broadcasters in the US. That will severely impact terrestrial TV broadcasting, and again, it will only offer one 4G channel, in what is not an ideal frequency range for cells.
I see these as politically-motivated moves. To show that the government is "doing something."