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Ofcom gives thumbs up to more white space devices

Ofcom reaches a decision on the use of a greater variety of devices that exploit white space gaps in radio and TV spectrum bands

Telecoms regulator Ofcom is to allow certain devices exploiting white spaces – gaps in radio spectrum frequency bands – to operate on a licence-exempt basis.

Ofcom has been exploring the potential of exploiting white space to bring benefits to consumers for some time.

In a statement published today (25 September 2015), the regulator said that while it was still working on an appropriate licensing regime, devices that require manual configuration can now be allowed to operate on a transitional basis while a binding set of regulations is established.

Devices that are configured automatically are already allowed to operate in gaps in the UHF TV spectrum bands on a licence-free basis.

Whether such devices are configured automatically or not is important because manual configuration introduces a risk of user error, which could cause problems for broadcast TV and radio signals. This is considered to be particularly a risk with any inaccurate reporting of a white space device’s location.

Ofcom said that enabling some licence-exempt operation for devices that need a human to set them up would let the deployment of more white space products to begin sooner, establish a clearer business case for white space technology and realise benefits quicker.

The regulator will introduce some technical and non-technical conditions to ensure a low probability of manually configured devices causing harmful interference to other services. Based on its research to date, Ofcom expects that the majority of white space devices would ultimately end up being exempt from licensing requirements.

Extensive testing of white space technology is already well in progress in the UK, with a number of applications emerging around ship-to-shore connectivity, smart cities and public safety, while ZSL London Zoo last year trialled white space wireless technology to live-stream some of its animals online.

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