The release of white space technology is being looked into by Ofcom.
The UK is set to be the first place in Europe to make use of white space, providing extra spectrum that could be key to a connected future.
‘White space’ is frequency that goes unused when broadcasting digital TV. It’s there for a reason as it provides buffering gaps between TV transmissions to avoid interference, however much of it goes totally unused much of the time.
The Telegraph is reporting that Ofcom has announced trials to leverage white space for use with other devices. White space exists on different frequencies in different regions, ranging from 470MHz to 790MHz. The size of the frequency gaps differs too, which means that ultimately a database of which bits of white space are available, when, where and at what power levels will be required in order for devices to make use of white space without disrupting television broadcasts.
If the spectrum can be successfully accessed it will open up more spectrum to use for wireless internet. As more and more devices become connected and with 4G rapidly taking off, the need for extra spectrum is only going to rise, as there is a limited amount of it and demand may eventually overtake supply. Indeed it’s looking like there will be as many as 50 billion internet connected devices worldwide by 2020.
We’re heading for an always connected future, but making the most of the spectrum we have, as is hopefully going to happen with white space, will be necessary to make that a reality.
Ultimately white space might be used in various ways. It could be used to provide mobile internet along the lines of the 3G and 4G connections that we already have. However it could also be used as an extension to fixed line broadband in order to reach remote locations that aren’t connected by cable.
Then there are more inventive uses for it, such as connecting machines to one another so that they can share data to become safer and more efficient or creating ‘smart cities’ by setting up a network of sensors which could judge everything from when street lighting is needed to how polluted the air is.
Ofcom has announced that the initial white space trials will run in various locations across the UK over a period of six months and partners include Microsoft, Google and BT among others.
Microsoft plans to try and use white space to bring free Wi-Fi to areas of Glasgow, while BT plans to work with Neul and the Department for Transport to monitor and reduce traffic congestion.
White space is already being successfully used in some parts of the world but this is the first step for the UK and Europe. One day it could become a central part of wireless communication, working in tandem with fixed line broadband and 4G to keep us connected in all places and at all times. Once these initial trials finish six months from now we should have a better idea of if and when that’s going to happen.
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