UK regulator Ofcom has announced that a group of technology firms, including Google, BT and Microsoft, are taking part in what it says is Europe’s first major pilot of white space technology. The regulator said that the UK will be among the first countries in the world to road-test the technology, and that it could help support the next wave of wireless innovation.
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 applications, such as sensors that monitor the behaviour of cities and dynamic information for road users.
Fixed line incumbent BT and white space technology start up Neul will work with the Department for Transport to test the potential enhancement of traffic information. Using white spaces to transmit data on traffic conditions to vehicles, the technology is designed to improve information to drivers. Ofcom said the trial could lead to deploying technology that could reduce congestion and even improve road safety.
Microsoft, meanwhile, will test how white spaces can provide people with access to free wifi in Glasgow, which has the lowest level of broadband take-up of all UK cities. Fixed wireless ISP Click4internet will use white spaces to test rural broadband in hard to reach places, while 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 trials will investigate the potential for white spaces to help meet the growing demands being placed on the UK’s wireless infrastructure, said Ofcom. The regulator added that white spaces is one example of spectrum sharing, which is a long term objective for it and will help the UK utilise spectrum more efficiently to meet growing demand.
“Access to spectrum is fundamental to the future success of the UK’s digital economy, providing the infrastructure that underpins all wireless communications,” said Ed Richards, Ofcom’s chief executive.
He added that by attracting an impressive line-up of participants to the white space pilots, the present an opportunity for the UK to help lead in the world of spectrum.
Steve Unger, Ofcom CTO, added: “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.”
In January this year, Microsoft opened its first European white space research centre in Brussels. The firm said that it intends to examine barriers standing in the way of efficient spectrum allocation.
Then in February, Neul released what it called the world’s first transceiver chip to make use of white space spectrum. The chip, called Iceni, will be used for machine-to-machine (M2M) connections as well as consumer wireless broadband applications.