Rural broadband to use 'white space'

Ofcom is planning a pilot of new wireless broadband technology that could mean faster speeds for rural areas from next year.

Rural broadband speeds could be set for a much-needed boost as Ofcom lifts the lid on its plans for a pilot of 'white space' wireless broadband technology.

The communications regulator intends to free up the gaps between frequency bands -'white spaces' - on the UK radio spectrum, paving the way for wide-reaching Wi-Fi networks that may improve broadband speeds in rural and hard-to-reach areas.

Ofcom will now invite wireless broadband providers to participate in a pilot scheme, which is scheduled to happen later this year.

It's thought that the first white space networks could be rolled out as early as 2014.

Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, said: "Ofcom is preparing for a future where consumer demand for data services will experience huge growth. This will be fuelled by smartphones, tablets and other new wireless applications.

"White space technology is one creative way that this demand can be met. We are aiming to facilitate this important innovation by working closely with industry."

Compared with other forms of wireless communication, such as Bluetooth and regular Wi-Fi, the radio waves used by white space devices will be able to travel farther and more easily through walls and other obstacles.

It could provide a long-term solution for rural broadband 'notspots' where broadband speeds lag increasingly behind those available in towns and cities.

Ofcom is separately planning to free up more radio spectrum for the next generation of high-speed mobile broadband - already dubbed '5G' - following the successful completion of a 4G spectrum auction in February.

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