Ofcom Rules for UK White Space Devices Similar to FCC Rules

Reading the consultation proposing rules for white space devices from United Kingdom telecom regulator Ofcom it was easy to see parallels with the FCC rules for white space devices. As in the U.S., U.K. white space devices will have to consult a database to determine what channels are available to avoid interference to wireless microphone users and digital terrestrial television (DTT).

In the Ofcom news release announcing the consultation, Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said, “From rural broadband to enhanced Wi-Fi, white space technology offers significant opportunities for innovation and enterprise in the UK. It also represents a fundamentally different approach to using spectrum by searching and recycling unused gaps in the airwaves. This could prove critical in averting a global spectrum capacity crunch, as consumers demand more bandwidth over different devices.”

The white space devices would operate without a license. As the news release explains, “Under Ofcom’s proposals, a white space device will not be able to start transmitting until getting clearance from an online database qualified by Ofcom. This database will provide updated information on where the white spaces are and the power level that devices would need to be restricted to if they wanted to use them.”

White space use in the U.S. so far has been primarily test trials in mostly rural areas. Companies are not likely to make a large investment in white space infrastructure in more densely populated areas until the uncertainty over spectrum available after the FCC incentive auction repacking is resolved. In the U.K., some DTT channels will be moved to make room for wireless broadband (see Ofcom Shifting TV Spectrum to Wireless Broadband), although due to the size of the UK and smaller coverage areas it looks like sufficient spectrum will be available for white space devices.

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.