Ofcom gives thumbs up for TV white space technology

Ofcom has given the green light for telecoms operators to take advantage of so called TV white spaces in unused parts of the spectrum in the 470 to 790 MHz frequency band. The decision follows earlier trials of a new wireless technology called white space devices, which share the band with existing use by digital terrestrial TV (DTT).

White spaces are essentially gaps in between frequency bands, and these can be utilised with the new technology for internet access for example. ZSL London Zoo has been using the white space devices to stream live video of animals at the park, and the technology has also been deployed in Oxfordshire in M2M networks for flood defence.

Ofcom said a key part in the trials has been to establish a way of sharing the radio waves without causing interference to existing users. This is done by using databases that communicate with the devices to set the technical constraints they must operate within. The databases also identify locations, frequencies and times to ensure there is no interference, and set Ofcom-devised limits on power levels the devices can function.

“This decision helps ensure the UK takes a leading role in the development of innovative new wireless technology,” Steve Unger, Ofcom’s Acting Chief Executive said. “It is also an important step in helping the UK’s wireless infrastructure evolve effectively and efficiently.”

The regulator claimed the UK is among the first European countries to provide spectrum specifically for this technology, and said this will be a big part of its IoT strategy.

“Ofcom is laying the foundations for industry to use database controlled spectrum sharing to deliver innovative new services to benefit consumers and businesses,” Philip Marnick, Ofcom Spectrum Group Director said. “Spectrum is an important but limited resource, which is why we’re exploring new ways of unlocking its potential, while balancing the needs of different users.”

White spaces is also part of Ofcom’s search for a solution to ever growing demand for spectrum for mobile telecoms use. The regulator is also planning to release more spectrum in the future as it is made available. The next largest public sector spectrum release will be that of the Ministry of Defence, which is freeing up its 2.3GHz and 2.4GHz bands. In all, 500MHz of spectrum between 400MHz and 5GHz, which is currently used by the UK public sector, is planned to be made available by 2020.

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