UK telecoms watchdog Ofcom has announced the progression of plans for the introduction of ‘white space’ technology, with the regulator claiming to be the first regulator in Europe to do so. The technology in question uses signals that can travel large distances and through walls easily, which Ofcom claims makes it suitable for ‘a wide range of new consumer applications’. Indeed, the regulator cites two applications in particular for the technology. Due to the lower frequency of TV white spaces (typically between 470MHz and 790MHz) Ofcom argues new capacity is likely to emerge for Wi-Fi-based services, and in conjunction with an increased range of devices it claims that Wi-Fi networks stretching across entire towns or cities could be possible. Further, the regulator also said that white spaces could be used to provide rural locations with broadband services, with Ofcom noting that in practice this could be achieved by building a network of transmitters that use white spaces to link remote houses and villages to larger towns that are already connected to the internet. Trials of such a setup are reportedly already underway on the island of Bute, Scotland. Ofcom has also revealed that it had made a decision to make white space devices licence exempt, on the condition that they do not cause harmful interference to existing users of the spectrum, and moving forward, Ofcom has said that the next step is to consult on a draft Statutory Instrument for such an exemption. Ofcom expects that white space technology could be launched in the UK in 2013.
Commenting on the development, Ed Richards, Ofcom’s 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.’