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Ofcom Opens UK White Space Wireless Broadband Consultation

Posted: 09th Nov, 2010 By: MarkJ
ofcomThe communications regulator, Ofcom UK, has launched a new consultation today that seeks to find a practical solution for successfully launching a new range of licence exempt wireless networks and broadband services via "white space technology".

Ofcom is keenly aware that increased congestion in the Wi-Fi frequency band around 2.4GHz is beginning to cause problems and "white space" is seen as a potential solution. Related devices use lower frequencies, which exist between TV channels, and are able to travel further and more easily through walls. They could also help to improve rural Mobile Broadband services.
How the technology will work

White space technology will work in a similar way to WiFi, which uses a wireless router to send and receive information to other wireless devices. A key difference is that the white space router will first need to consult a list of databases hosted online. It will describe its location and device characteristics to one of these databases on a regular basis. The database will then return details of the frequencies and power levels it is allowed to use.
The regulators new consultation is technically its second since they launched the first "discussion document" last November (2009). Today's consultation simply sets out the processes needed to successfully launch the technology.

Professor William Webb, Director of Technology Resources at Ofcom, said:

"The airwaves that wireless devices depend on are becoming increasingly congested. We need to think about more efficient ways of using this limited resource. Using the white spaces between TV channels is a good example of how we can both use spectrum more efficiently and provide opportunities for innovative new applications and services.

Our role is to encourage innovation rather than decide on what technology and applications should succeed. To that end, we hope that these frequencies, which offer improved signal reliability, capacity, and range over existing wireless technologies, will bring clear benefits for consumers."

At present we're not convinced that the wider wireless industry is suitably geared up and in a position to make effective use of "white space" technology, at least it won't be for a few more years.

In the meantime Ofcom's consultation is expected to remain open until 7th December 2010, after which it hopes to produce a draft Statutory Instrument to make white space devices licence exempt (this will require a third consultation). The whole process should be completed by the end of 2011.
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