UK starts white space tech pilot


Ofcom unveils participants in wireless innovation trial

Ofcom has today announced the organisations taking part in Europe's first major pilot of 'white space' wireless technology.  The UK will be among the first countries in the world to road test white space tech, which could help support the next wave of wireless innovation. 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, noted Ofcom. 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. Steve Unger, Ofcom CTO, remarked: 'Spectrum is the raw material that will underpin the next revolution in wireless communications. In the future it won't be just mobiles and tablets that are connected to the internet; billions of other things including cars, crops, coffee machines and cardiac monitors will also be connected, using tiny slivers of spectrum to get online.  'This is likely to deliver large benefits to society; however there isn't an unlimited supply of spectrum to meet this extraordinary demand. This is why we need to explore new ways of unlocking the potential of spectrum – like white space technology – to get the most from this valuable national resource,' concluded Unger.

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 and 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. 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 space 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, it claimed. 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.'


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