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Ofcom moots analogue spectrum for rural mobile broadband devices

Kathleen Hall

Ofcom has proposed using radio spectrum freed up from the switchover from analogue to digital to deliver mobile broadband to sparsely populated areas.

Radio stations will migrate to digital broadcast as part of the switchover. This will free up 50% of the frequency spectrum currently used to deliver FM radio, claimed Ofcom.

White space devices are being designed to use a much wider range of frequencies, including the lower frequencies traditionally reserved for TV and radio, said Ofcom.

Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, said that any release of new spectrum has the potential to enable innovation in new applications and services.

"Spectrum is a resource that is in huge demand, fuelled by the recent explosion in smart phones and other wireless technologies. However there is only a limited amount of it to go around, which means we need to start thinking more creatively about how it is used. White space devices could offer an effective solution," said Richards.

On 9 November 2010, Ofcom launched a consultation on how to launch the technology and how new devices will be made available to consumers without a licence. The regulator said it will publish its findings shortly.

It is important white space devices do not interfere with other wireless technologies that share these frequencies, said Ofcom. The regulator has proposed creating a geolocation database that contains live information about the frequencies free to use as a solution.

Some white space applications will work in a similar way to Wi-Fi, which uses a wireless router to send and receive information to other wireless devices. Contacting the database, the white space router or base station will describe its location and the database will return details of the frequencies and power levels the router is allowed to use to ensure it does not interfere with other devices operating in its vicinity.


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