Out-Law News 1 min. read

Ofcom seeks to accommodate use of 'white space' technology through change to licensing regime

Ofcom is to establish a new licensing regime which will allow 'white space' technology to be put into use despite there being a small risk that it could lead to interference with other uses of radio spectrum.

The regulator said (28-page / 402KB PDF) that the new licensing regime, which will apply on a transitional basis and cover 'manually configurable white space devices' (MCWSDs), would spur investment in white space technologies that can help ensure spectrum is used as efficiently as possible.

Licensees will be required to put in place quality assurance programmes and maintain a record of their white space device installations to safeguard against the risk of interference with other services.

That risk, Ofcom said, is present because white space devices currently need to be manually configured meaning that there is the potential for misconfiguration to occur, with the technology not yet developed to the extent where they can work automatically. When advancements in white space device technology enable those devices to operate automatically in future, the companies that deploy them will no longer need a licence to use them, it said.

"If we do not authorise use of MCWSDs, WSDB (white space database) providers and potential white space users would only be able to continue to undertake non-commercial, non-operational trials while waiting on WSD manufacturers to produce equipment that would meet the proposed licence exemption requirements regarding automatic configuration," Ofcom said.

"We are concerned that this would delay benefits to citizens and consumers which could otherwise be realised by allowing earlier adoption of white space technology under the framework and disincentivise investment in white space, and could lead to less efficient use of the spectrum," it said.

"If we do authorise use of MCWSDs, industry would have greater ability to test business plans for the use of white spaces and to better understand the demand for commercial use of white space equipment. It may also enable WSDB providers to start to see an earlier return on the investment they have made to date in contributing to and implementing the TVWS (TV White Spaces) regulatory framework," Ofcom said.

'White space' is the term used to refer to the gaps that exist between radio spectrum bands already in use. 

The use of white space wireless technology was trialled last year. Ofcom has concluded that new services can be delivered in the 470-790MHz band without it causing "harmful interference" to existing digital terrestrial television (DTT) and programme making and special event (PMSE) services.

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