White spaces are the unused radio waves in the segment of the spectrum which is employed to transmit TV broadcasts. The idea is these can be used to carry wireless signals, although unlike traditional wi-fi, white space devices will use lower frequencies that are usually the domain of television.
The useful point about these lower frequency signals is that they can travel further, and more easily through walls, hence the suitability for getting mobile broadband out to rural areas.
Ofcom notes the importance of ensuring that such a system of white space devices wouldn’t interfere with TV broadcasts. Hence the devices will come with a geolocation database which would have to be consulted to determine which frequencies are free to use.
It all sounds like clever stuff, but it’s some way off a reality, with Ofcom only initially launching a consultation on the matter today.
Professor William Webb, Director of Technology Resources at Ofcom, said: “The airwaves that wireless devices depend on are becoming increasingly congested. We need to think about more efficient ways of using this limited resource. Using the white spaces between TV channels is a good example of how we can both use spectrum more efficiently and provide opportunities for innovative new applications and services.”
“Our role is to encourage innovation rather than decide on what technology and applications should succeed. To that end, we hope that these frequencies, which offer improved signal reliability, capacity, and range over existing wireless technologies, will bring clear benefits for consumers.”
Ofcom is guessing that by the end of next year, there will be a regulatory and technical regime in place to support white space technology.