UK Regulator Talks White Space Technology by End of 2013

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom today published detailed proposals for a framework that would allow white space technology to be used in the UK. According to Ofcom, the publication of these proposals brings the launch of Europe's first consumer 'white space' devices one step closer. 

White space technology involves searching for unused areas of the airwaves ('white spaces') that exist in spectrum bands reserved for TV. These white spaces are used to transmit and receive wireless signals over large distances and Ofcom said last year that it expected the amount of white space spectrum available to compare to the spectrum reserved for 3G services.

White Space devices will work in a similar way to WiFi, the main difference being that the white space router, or 'master device,' first needs to consult a list of databases hosted online. It will notify one of these databases of its location and the database will then return details of radio-frequencies and power-levels the device is allowed to use (avoiding the chances that white space devices will interfere with other existing licenced users of the spectrum). Though Ofcom has decided make these devices licence exempt, new legislation is needed to allow white space devices to operate without the need for a licence. Ofcom today published an example of how this legislation might look.

Ofcom expects the new technology will have a wide range of applications, including enhanced WiFi, rural broadband and machine-to-machine communication. Compared to regular Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, the radio waves used by white space devices will be able to travel larger distances and easily through walls because they would use the lower frequencies that have traditionally been reserved for TV.

So, where are we now? Ofcom says it will finalise the arrangements for databases and the technical parameters necessary to ensure white space devices can operate with existing spectrum users in 2013. Additionally, it will notify the European Commission of its proposed technical regulations for white space devices next year. There will then be a three-month 'standstill' period that will allow other EU Member States the opportunity to comment on Ofcom's plans. The end result is that white space technology could potentially be up and running in the UK by the end of 2013. 

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