Ofcom is considering using the airwaves freed up when FM radio goes digital to provide rural broadband. So-called white spaces devices are currently being trialled for use in the spectrum gaps freed up by the digital TV switchover. Ofcom believes they would work equally well in the FM spectrum.
There is no set date for the switchover from FM to digital radio although the government is keen for it to happen in 2015.
White space technologies have been gathering momentum in recent months. They take advantage of spare spectrum bands that have not been licensed for any other use. This makes them attractive to communications firms because they get to use for free what would otherwise be extremely expensive.
The technology is particularly useful for providing rural broadband where the costs of laying cables or otherwise supplying bandwidth are much higher.