'White space' wireless technology set to support data services in 2015, says Ofcom

Out-Law News | 10 Oct 2014 | 5:08 pm | 1 min. read

UPDATED: 'White space' wireless technology could be used to support mobile data services from as early as next year, Ofcom has said. 'White space' is the term used to refer to the gaps that exist between radio spectrum bands already in use.

The regulator said that trials of white space technology will determine whether data can be transmitted using the gaps between radio frequency bands without disrupting the services already being delivered over existing spectrum. The white space that could be brought into use next year currently acts as a buffer between radio spectrum currently used to support digital terrestrial TV broadcasting.

Ofcom said it hopes white space technology will be "rolled out during 2015" following the conclusion of the current trials, further testing and the development of a specific policy on its use. Bringing white space technology into use would enable "the use of new wireless applications to benefit consumers and businesses across the country", it said.

Being able to exploit the gaps between radio spectrum would help the UK meet "the growing demand for data" in the 'internet of things' (IoT) era, the regulator said. This is because its use could free-up radio spectrum for use by other data services that are delivered wirelessly, it said.

The IoT is a term used to loosely describe the increasing interconnection of devices and the associated rise in the creation and flow of data between those machines. The term accounts for developments in wearable technology, connected cars as well as smart metering and other in-home applications that now generate and transfer data over telecommunication networks.

"In a world where consumers’ demand for data services is experiencing huge growth, it is essential we find the most efficient ways to share the airwaves," Philip Marnick, group director of Ofcom's spectrum policy group, said. "White space technology could be one way of meeting this demand. These trials are an important first step in Ofcom understanding whether white space can be used in other spectrum bands."

"Compared with other forms of wireless technologies, such as regular Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, the radio waves used by TV white space devices can travel longer distances and more easily through walls," Ofcom said in a statement.

Editor’s note 14/10/14: this story has been updated after an Ofcom spokesperson explained that the new white space technology would not be used to support digital terrestrial TV broadcasting services next year, as we earlier reported. We are sorry for this original error.