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UK communications watchdog backs new wireless technology

A new wireless technology that could outperform other technologies such as wi-fi and Bluetooth has been given the green light by Ofcom after successful industry trials.

“White spaces” are gaps in the radio and TV frequency airwaves, which can be used by consumers to carry wireless signals, such as internet connection.

White spaces in TV frequency bands can travel longer distances, as well as more easily through walls than the bands used by existing wireless technologies, said Ofcom.

As part of the trials of the technology, ships in the Orkney Islands were given internet access for the first time as wi-fi signals do not normally reach them, and ZSL London Zoo set up live streams of some of their animals, delivered over white spaces.

“This decision helps ensure the UK takes a leading role in the development of innovative new wireless technology,” Steve Unger, Ofcom's acting chief executive, said.

“It is also an important step in helping the UK’s wireless infrastructure evolve effectively and efficiently.”

Ofcom said it is now working on the rules for industry to use TV white spaces, involving the creation of databases to ensure that adding new signals to the existing frequency spectrum does not tamper with other signals. Databases will spot the gaps in the TV airwaves where white space devices can operate.

White space technology could be a solution to meet the growing demand for data in the UK and the green light could see wider-ranging internet connections across the UK by the end of the year according to the watchdog.

Ofcom said it is planning to free up more spectrum later this year, or early 2016, for high speed mobile broadband, after the successful completion of the 4G mobile spectrum auction in 2013.

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