Advanced Television

Ofcom names ‘white space’ trial participants

October 2, 2013

UK regulator Ofcom has revealed the organisations taking part in Europe’s first major pilot of ‘white space’ technology, which could help support the next wave of wireless innovation. The UK will be among the first countries in the world to road-test the technology. ‘White spaces’ exist in between frequency bands that have been reserved for TV broadcasting.

Over the next six months, around 20 public and private organisations will be participating in Ofcom’s pilot by running trials to test a variety of innovative applications – ranging from sensors that monitor the behaviour of cities, to dynamic information for road users and rural broadband in hard to reach places.

A full list of participants is available HERE

Among the participants, BT and technology specialist Neul will work with the Department for Transport to test the potential enhancement of traffic information as part of a wider project along the A14 between Felixstowe and Cambridge. Using white spaces to transmit data on traffic congestion and varying traffic conditions to vehicles, the technology is designed to improve information to drivers and could reduce congestion and even improve road safety.

Microsoft will test how white spaces can provide people with access to free Wi-Fi in Glasgow, which has the lowest level of broadband take-up of all UK cities.

Working with the University of Strathclyde’s Centre for White Space Communications, Microsoft will also examine using white spaces to link a network of sensors around Glasgow to create a ‘smart city’.

Internet service provider, Click4internet, will use white spaces to test rural broadband in hard to reach places obscured by thick foliage or challenging topography. Unlike other forms of wireless technologies, such as regular Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, the radio waves used by white space devices will be able to travel larger distances and easily through solid objects. This is because they would use the lower frequencies that have traditionally been reserved for TV. They will work with technology partners, KTS & SineCom to deliver the pilot.

A number of companies, including Google, Nominet, LS telcom, iconectiv, Key Bridge, Fairspectrum and Spectrum Bridge have expressed interest in testing intelligent databases that ensure white spaces can be used without causing harmful interference to other devices.

These new services will utilise the gaps, or ‘white spaces’, that sit in the frequency band used to broadcast digital terrestrial TV. Some of these gaps may be used by other applications, such as wireless microphones, but only at certain times.

White space devices would access the spaces at times when they are vacant, by communicating their locations to a database designed to minimise the risk of interference with any existing users. This is a creative and efficient way to get the most from spectrum – the vital but finite resource that supports all wireless technology.

The amount of white space available in the UK varies by location, the power level of devices and the point in the day at which they access spectrum.

Unlike some other parts of the radio spectrum, white spaces will be available to use on a licence-exempt basis, potentially allowing for fast take-up and innovation by manufacturers.

The forthcoming trials will investigate the potential for white spaces to help meet the growing demands being placed on the UK’s wireless infrastructure. White spaces is one example of spectrum sharing. Spectrum sharing is a long term objective for Ofcom which will help the UK utilise spectrum more efficiently to meet growing demand.

Ofcom notes that competing demands from different sectors – such as broadcasting, programme makers and special events organisers – are also likely to present significant challenges for spectrum management over the next 10 years.

For example, trends towards higher definition TV are likely to influence broadcasting capacity needs on both digital terrestrial TV and satellite platforms. Also, wireless microphone and camera users will be affected by the increasing complexity of live events production and the move to higher definition standards.

Ed Richards, Ofcom’s Chief Executive, said: “Access to spectrum is fundamental to the future success of the UK’s digital economy, providing the infrastructure that underpins all wireless communications. “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 start-ups. This is an excellent opportunity for the UK to help lead in the world of spectrum and one that could deliver huge benefits to society.”

Under Ofcom’s plans, a TV white space device will not be able to start transmitting until it receives clearance from a database qualified by Ofcom and listed in the statutory instrument setting out the terms of the licence exemption (or, for the purposes of the pilot, in the pilot licences) and on a dedicated Ofcom website. This database will provide up-to-date information on where the TV white spaces are located, and the power level to which devices should be restricted if they want to use the spaces. This will help ensure that there is a low probability of harmful interference with existing users of the spectrum.

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