The University of Strathclyde, with funding from the Scottish Funding Council, has opened a new Centre for White Space Communications that aims to develop new White Space (IEEE 802.22) based wireless technologies that can exploit the unused radio spectrum which exists between UK Digital TV channels.
Ofcom are currently in the final stages of developing a new regulatory framework to support the use of White Space technology on a licence exempt basis, which could help to deliver wifi style wireless internet solutions over a wide area. But the technology is still in its infancy and the United Kingdom is one of only a few countries to have conducted real-world trials (e.g. BT’s tests in Cambridge, Cornwall and the Isle of Bute).
Ed Vaizey, UK Communications Minister, said:
“The University of Strathclyde has a proud history of leading research on mobile communications technology and this new centre promises to take that work even further.
This new facility provides an excellent opportunity for the UK to lead the development of this technology and realise the economic benefits of being at the forefront of this field.”
Jim Beveridge, Senior Director of Microsoft Technology Group, said:
“We are excited about the potential and possibilities in the use of TV White Spaces technology. We see the launch of the Centre for White Space Communications as essential to this effort and another example of the UK leading the way in this field.
We believe tapping unused spectrum will help support innovation in the UK’s tech sector and extend the broadband access needed by rural and unserved communities not only in the UK but globally, and essentially transform the local economies and create opportunities for ambitious SMEs.”
So far the admittedly very early trials of White Space technology have only been capable of delivering moderate broadband speeds, albeit over a fairly wide area (around 10km), and doubts remain over the commercial viability of such services.
Recent rumours indicated that both Microsoft and Google were considering White Space to support a free wifi service for their Smartphones. But so far no firm plans or confirmation of any kind has surfaced.
In any case the first services probably wouldn’t be able to launch before 2014. Ofcom must still complete the necessary regulation and the hardware requires further development, which is probably where the new centre fits in.