Wireless internet in the UK to be boosted by white space technology

UK communications regulator Ofcom has approved the use of white space - the gaps between the radio spectrum bands used by digital television and wireless microphones used for TV programmes and special events - to boost wireless internet.

White space will be used to provide internet in places that are hard to reach with fixed-line broadband, Wi-Fi and mobile internet, and also for the 'internet of things' - networks of devices that communicate and interact with one another.

Steve Unger, Ofcom acting chief executive, said: "This decision helps ensure the UK takes a leading role in the development of innovative new wireless technology. It is also an important step in helping the UK's wireless infrastructure evolve effectively and efficiently."

Uses of white space are currently being trialled by those in the telecoms industry. Sky, together with four other companies including Microsoft, has been looking at how it can be used to improve internet coverage in Scotland using 'triple-band' Wi-Fi, among other things.

Dual-band is the best you can currently get from a major broadband provider. You get a dual-band wireless router, which use two frequencies to give you the strongest Wi-Fi signal possible at any given time, with all BT and Virgin Media broadband packages.

White space is also being used for machine-to-machine flood defence networks in Oxfordshire and to provide internet on ships and boats in the Orkney Islands. It was used for a YouTube live stream of Asian otters, meerkats and giant Galapagos tortoises at ZSL London Zoo in September, 2014.

White space spectrum in the TV frequency band is dead useful because it can travel longer distances and pass more easily through walls and buildings than the most commonly used wireless technologies, like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

It's there to prevent TV channels from bleeding into one another, but white space technology can use it without causing any interference. This is done through databases that will apply rules set by Ofcom, telling white space devices the chronological, geographical and technical constraints they must operate within.

Phillip Marnick, Ofcom spectrum group director, said: "Ofcom is laying the foundations for industry to use database controlled spectrum sharing to deliver innovative new services to benefit consumers and businesses.

"Spectrum is an important but limited resource, which is why we're exploring new ways of unlocking its potential, while balancing the needs of different users."

Based on the trials and feedback from telecoms companies, Ofcom believes we could see white space technology used commercially by the end of the year. The regulator is exploring the possibility of how white space in other spectrum bands could be used for further innovation in the future.

Sources: Advanced Television, CNet UK, Ofcom, V3.co.uk

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