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Ofcom Okays Testing of New Applications in White Space Spectrum

Ofcom, the telecommunications regulator for the United Kingdom, announced the organizations taking part in Europe's first major pilot of TV band “white space” technology. Ofcom said that over the next six months, around 20 public and private organizations will be participating in the pilot by running trials to test a variety of innovative applications ranging from sensors that monitor the behavior of cities, to dynamic information for road users and rural broadband in hard to reach places.

Some of the organizations participating in the test will be familiar to those monitoring the development and deployment of white space technology in the United States.

Microsoft will evaluate how white spaces can provide people with access to free Wi-Fi in Glasgow, the city with the lowest level of broadband take-up of all U.K. cities. Working with the University of Strathclyde’s Centre for White Space Communications, Microsoft will also examine the use of white spaces to link a network of sensors around Glasgow to create a “smart city.”

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.

Silicon Valley-based Adaptrum will be testing the performance of a new product line that uses TV white spaces to deliver super fast wireless broadband. MELD, the Sunnyvale, Calif. company that makes a low-power TV transmitters designed to operate under white space rules, plans to test the use of TV white spaces to broadcast HDTV content (entertainment related, public service, or informational broadcasts) to TV screens and portable devices equipped with a digital TV tuner. Refer to the announcement for a complete list of participating organizations.

Ofcom recognized the challenges facing white space technology due to competing demands for spectrum for broadcasting, wireless microphones, broadband and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. The organization noted, “wireless microphone and camera users will be affected by the increasing complexity of live events production and the move to higher-definition standards.”

Details on how Ofcom plans to meet the challenges and balance the competing demand for spectrum are available in the Consultation Spectrum management strategy--Ofcom's approach to and priorities for spectrum management over the next ten years. The contents of this document are not limited to TV band white space spectrum.

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

Steve Unger, Ofcom’s chief technology officer, 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.”

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.