UK telecoms regulator Ofcom yesterday (12 February 2015) gave the green light for industry to harness ‘TV white space’ wireless technology, following a series of successful trials around the country. ‘White spaces’ are gaps in the radio spectrum – here, specifically within the 470MHz to 790MHz band – which can be used to offer new wireless applications for consumers and businesses. Ofcom’s decision means that unused parts of the 470-790MHz band will be used by white space devices which will share the band with its existing uses – Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), including local TV, and ‘Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE)’ including in particular wireless microphone users. The sharing will take place dynamically, controlled by databases which will hold information on the location of DTT and PMSE users and white space devices, thereby allowing access only to the extent that this does not cause harmful interference to the existing users of the spectrum, according to Ofcom’s website. The watchdog adds that the decision is aimed at meeting the increasing demand for more spectrum to deliver existing and new services, while its objective is to see the new white space technology deployed commercially by the end of 2015.
Ofcom’s release continues that ‘white space spectrum in the TV frequency band is appealing for industry because it can travel longer distances and more easily through walls than the bands mainly used by other wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.’ Ofcom previously released spectrum which can be used for machine-to-machine (M2M) networks (‘Authorisation of Short Range Devices in 870-876MHz and 915-921MHz bands’, April 2014), and says the UK is among the first countries in Europe to provide spectrum specifically for M2M technology, which will form a major part of the ‘Internet of Things’ – networks of devices communicating with each other online. Steve Unger, Ofcom acting chief executive, said: ‘This decision helps ensure the UK takes a leading role in the development of innovative new wireless technology. It is also an important step in helping the UK’s wireless infrastructure evolve effectively and efficiently.’ Philip Marnick, Ofcom Spectrum Group director, added: ‘Ofcom is laying the foundations for industry to use database controlled spectrum sharing to deliver innovative new services to benefit consumers and businesses … Spectrum is an important but limited resource, which is why we’re exploring new ways of unlocking its potential, while balancing the needs of different users.’
Industry is already testing a range of uses for TV white space technology, such as internet access for ships and boats in the Orkney Islands, next-generation Wi-Fi and ‘smart cities’ projects in Glasgow, and new M2M networks for flood defence in Oxfordshire. As one example, Ofcom’s website offers a live video stream of meerkats, otters and giant tortoises, delivered over white spaces at London Zoo.