Ofcom progresses ‘white space’

Ofcom has expanded on how a new form of wireless communication called “white space technology” will work in practice. This follows an earlier consultation, exploring the potential of the technology, which could be used for a wide range of applications.

The technology works by searching for unused radio waves called “white spaces” between TV channels to transmit and receive wireless signals. Compared with other forms of wireless technology, such as Bluetooth and WiFi, white-space devices are being designed to use lower frequencies that have traditionally been reserved for TV. Signals at these frequencies travel further and more easily through walls.

The consultation sets out the processes needed to successfully launch the technology and how new devices will be made available to consumers without the need for a licence.

Professor William Webb, Director of Technology Resources at Ofcom, said: “The airwaves that wireless devices depend on are becoming increasingly congested. We need to think about more efficient ways of using this limited resource. Using the white spaces between TV channels is a good example of how we can both use spectrum more efficiently and provide opportunities for innovative new applications and services. Our role is to encourage innovation rather than decide on what technology and applications should succeed. To that end, we hope that these frequencies, which offer improved signal reliability, capacity, and range over existing wireless technologies, will bring clear benefits for consumers.”

The closing date for responses to Ofcom’s latest consultation is December 7th.

The next step is for Ofcom to propose a draft Statutory Instrument to make white space devices licence exempt. This will be consulted on before being brought into effect.  It is estimated that by the end of 2011, there will be a regulatory and technical regime in place to support white space technology.

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