Ofcom plans to recycle airwaves with white spaces

Uses gaps in the spectrum reserved for TV broadcasts to open up more bandwidth
Matthew Finnegan

September 1, 2011
Ofcom Logo

Ofcom has announced plans to use so-called “white space” frequencies in the UK.

It is the first time a country in Europe has given the green light for the technology which uses signals that can travel through walls and over large distances, good news for rural internet users.

Devices using the tech will work by searching the airwaves for the gaps called white spaces that occupy bands between those reserved for TV signals, and is basically a way of recycling airwaves – a sought after resource.

This will mean less stress is placed on wireless services, and will open up about the same amount of space as is currently available for the 3G network.

Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “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.”

“The solution we have devised creates the opportunity to maximise the efficient use of spectrum and open the door to the development of a new and exciting range of consumer and business applications.”

Such applications can include enhanced Wi-Fi which operates at the 2.4GHz spectrum which can stretch across towns. Also rural locations will get a boost by building networks of transmitters using white space that link remote houses to villages and larger towns.

Machine to machine communications, which will account for billions of connection over the next few years will also benefit from white space.

White space will work by consulting an online database on which frequencies it is allowed to use, ensuring no interference with other signals.

Competition will be encouraged among third parties developing such databases to ensure quality.
It is expected that white space technology will be opened up in UK airwaves in 2013.


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