‘White space’ devices are on the way, says Ofcom

Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator of the United Kingdom, has called for a pilot of an innovative new batch of “white space” devices utilising gaps in the radio spectrum.

The plan is to use white space in order to test broadcasts which will not interfere with any current spectrum. This will be enforced by broadcasters only being allowed to utilise where the spaces are, and the power levels they are restricted to on a dedicated website updated by Ofcom.

The scheme will initially launch in the autumn to invited industry partners, and following completion of this trial a full rollout is due in 2014 allowing devices to be used across the country.

In February, Ofcom held a spectrum auction for competing 4G networks (after an exclusive period of availability by mobile network Everything Everywhere) deciding on four other winning bidders; Hutchison 3G UK Ltd, Niche Spectrum Ventures Ltd, Telefónica UK Ltd and Vodafone Ltd.

4G services from the four other winning bidders are expected to hit consumers by late-spring / early-summer, but Ofcom is planning well-ahead with the likely release of the 700MHz spectrum in preparation for 5G.

In a February press release, Ofcom predicts: “By 2030, demand for mobile data could be 80 times higher than today.” It’s great to see early thought is being given to meet this massive demand, and to have the infrastructure in place to ensure the UK stays competitive on a global level.

White space will be used to test the 5G spectrum in the hope of preventing any interference and streamlining the process of approval for use by operators as soon as possible.

One of Ofcom’s main duties is “promoting competition, encouraging investment and innovation and encouraging the availability and use of high speed data transfer services throughout the United Kingdom”. This early-testing process in place for 5G helps to meet this responsibility.

Will this new method of testing devices help streamline the release of new broadcasting technologies? Is Ofcom doing the right thing by planning ahead in preparation of 5G?

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