Ofcom has released details of industry participants in what is described as the first major European pilot of white-space wireless broadband technology.
Designed to help bring broadband to hard-to-cable rural areas, and as a potential underpinning technology for the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT), white-space broadband uses gaps in the spectrum freed up by the termination of analogue TV and other outmoded broadcast media to provide wireless data connectivity. Unlike existing licence-free wireless systems, such as Wi-Fi, white-space can use a much larger swathe of radiofrequency spectrum - potentially giving it higher speeds, support for more simultaneous devices, and better resistance to interference.
White-space has its difficulties, however: a section of the radiofrequency spectrum available for white-space use in one part of the country may be in-use and subject to licence in another. As a result, white-space systems will rely on a centrally-managed database which client devices will be required to query for frequency allocations before beginning transmissions.
According to Ofcom's report, a wide selection of companies and organisations have expressed interest in participating in the trial - including Google, which has previously run white-space trials in the US, and Microsoft, which plans to use white-space spectrum to provide free internet access around Glasgow and run a sensor network designed to create a so-called 'smart city.'
Other companies involved in the programme include: Love Hz, the Oxford-based white-space specialist, which plans to built a trial network in Oxford in partnership with MLL Telecom, to be used for commercial exploitation as well as powering a network of flood sensors; KTS, SineCom and Click4Internet, who are to partner on provide internet connectivity to rural residences on the Isle of Wight, monitor and manage a water utility operation in Scotland, and run a white-space connected CCTV system in Watford; and BT, which will partner with IoT specialist Neul and the Department of Transport to test white-space connected traffic management technology on the stretch of the A14 between Felixstowe and Cambridge.
'Access to spectrum is fundamental to the future success of the UK’s digital economy, providing the infrastructure that underpins all wireless communications,' said Ofcom's chief executive Ed Richards of the technology, which will be licence-free for both commercial and non-commercial use. 'The upcoming white space pilot is a very exciting development, which has attracted an impressive line-up of participants, ranging from global tech giants to innovative UK start-ups. This is an excellent opportunity for the UK to help lead in the world of spectrum and one that could deliver huge benefits to society.'