Ofcom announces UK white space trials

UK organisations will play a major part in European tests for the wireless technology

Trials testing the wireless capabilities of white space technology are set to commence in the UK, Ofcom confirmed today.

The regulator first promised the pilots in April, but has now announced around 20 home-grown public and private sector organisations set to take part in the scheme, which will be replicated across Europe.

White space is the term for gaps within digital terrestrial television frequencies which are used for the likes of wireless microphones, but not utilised all the time.

Researchers claim these spaces could communicate with a central database to let it know when they are free, meaning the vacant frequencies could be redirected to other applications, enabling countries to get more out of the finite amount of spectrum they have.

“Access to spectrum is fundamental to the future success of the UK’s digital economy, providing the infrastructure that underpins all wireless communications,” said Ed Richards, CEO of Ofcom.  

“The upcoming white space pilot is a very exciting development, which has attracted an impressive line-up of participants, ranging from global tech giants to innovative UK startups. This is an excellent opportunity for the UK to lead in the world of spectrum and one that could deliver huge benefits to society,” said Richards.

The upcoming white space pilot is a very exciting development. This is an excellent opportunity for the UK to lead in the world of spectrum and one that could deliver huge benefits to society

Ed Richards, Ofcom

Tests in the UK will include a traffic monitoring system by BT and Neul, using the white space to send traffic information to drivers on the A14 between Felixstowe and Cambridge, and a free Wi-Fi service run by Microsoft in Glasgow. Click4internet, KTS & SineCom will also be seeing if they can use the frequencies to provide broadband in rural areas.  

Database companies, including Google, Nominet, LS telcom, iconectiv, Key Bridge, Fairspectrum and Spectrum Bridge, will also test whether the utilisation of white spaces will interfere with other mobile devices.

“Spectrum is the raw material that will underpin the next revolution in wireless communications," said Steve Unger, chief technology officer at Ofcom. "In the future it won’t be just mobiles and tablets that are connected to the internet; billions of other things including cars, farming machinery, coffee machines and cardiac monitors will also be connected, using tiny slivers of spectrum to get online.

“This is likely to deliver large benefits to society, but there isn’t an unlimited supply of spectrum to meet this extraordinary demand. This is why we need to explore new ways of unlocking the potential of spectrum – like white space technology – to get the most from this valuable national resource,” he added.

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