Ofcom investigates 'white space' radio

Technique could boost rural broadband

Ofcom is looking particularly at its use to take advantage of gaps in the TV broadcast spectrum, whose relatively low operating frequency offers better propagation characteristics than higher-frequency services such as Bluetooth and WiFi.

The regulator say that white space radio techniques, although some years from commercialisation, could enable a new wave of innovation such as improved mobile broadband access in rural areas; digital cameras that can automatically transmit photos back to your computer as soon as you click the shutter; and the ability to control home appliances from hundreds of miles away.

Ofcom stresses that white-space devices must prove they will not interfere with TV broadcasts and other wireless technologies that share these frequencies, such as wireless microphones. One way to do this would be for devices to refer to a live database that lists the frequencies are free to use in its current location.

If the potential interference issues can be solved, Ofocm may allow white space radios to operate without an individual licence.

Professor William Webb, head of research and development at Ofcom, said: "White space devices have the potential to enable a vast range of new and innovative applications - from broadband access for rural communities, to innovative personal consumer applications - each benefiting from improved signal reliability, capacity, and range offered by unused TV frequencies.

"However, this technology remains largely unproven and a significant amount of work needs to be done before these claims can be tested.

"The purpose of this discussion document is to further the thinking that is taking place around the world on geolocation and speed the development of possible solutions."

Read more on the challenges of white space radio in this E&T article from earlier this year by Prof Webb


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