Ofcom gives go-ahead for white space broadband

Ofcom has given industry the nod to start using TV white space freed by the switch to digital broadcasting to improve broadband coverage.

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The communications regulator Ofcom has approved use of TV white space to bring wireless broadband technology to areas lacking internet access.

TV white space (TVWS) refers to unused parts of the spectrum between airwaves, which have been freed up by the switch to digital TV broadcasting. Industry experts hope it could help meet the growing boom in demand for data services.

“This kind of technology can bring connectivity over large distances, works in remote areas that WiFi often cannot reach and could really fuel the growth of the Internet of Things in the UK”, domain name registrars Nominet said.

The regulator is preparing for industry to use the new spectrum by setting up databases identifying locations, times and frequencies where white space devices will not affect existing users. It will also apply rules limiting the power levels they can operate at.

Ofcom said it believes commercial applications using TV white space could emerge by the end of this year.

The decision followed a series of successful industry trials, including the Oxford Flood Network, a citizen-built wireless sensor network that monitors water levels in real time and provides early flood alerts.

It has also been used to test ‘smart city’ technology in Strathclyde and internet access on ships and boats in remote areas of the sea off northern Scotland.

Ofcom is exploring how white space in other bands could be used to support innovation. It has already released spectrum which can be used for machine-to-machine networks, which will form a major part of the ‘Internet of Things’ network of connected devices.

Nominet CEO Russell Haworth said: “Today’s announcement of the first specifications for TVWS in Europe is proof that dynamic spectrum allocation works and it’s significant. The relentless demand for connectivity means innovative ways to optimise spectrum will become a necessity."

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