02/09/2011

Ofcom opens Whitespace spectrum

Ofcom the super regulator that deals with regulation of broadcast media, radio and telecoms has made a statement about opening-up 'white space spectrum' and allow for devices to be deployed in a license exempt manner (in the UK there is no such thing as unlicensed spectrum and all transmission or reception equipment is covered by either a specific license or a 'blanket' license published by Ofcom and as long as the user/equipment abides by the conditions of the blanket license they don't need a specific license - bands like 2.4GHz which covers WiFi and Bluetooth devices are license exempt).

The equipment will have to connect to a central database (that Ofcom may actually subcontract to 3rd parties) which will note their geolocation and provide information about which frequencies are in use in that area. Ofcom may mandate a 'switch-off' mode such that if interference is detected in the area, white space devices may be forced to stop transmission.

This will be particularly suitable for rural areas as the 'white space' spectrum can be used to support wireless broadband and other services. This is significant as Ofcom are proposing that the TV bands can be used (as digital multiplexs use interleaved frequencies such that neighbouring transmitter sites don't interfere with each other) and TV bands have good propagation characteristics. Ofcom is also considering the UHF bands, though these may be more problematic longer term.

Ofcom also is considering use for WiFi like services (for localised high speed connectivity) and machine-to-machine communications which could cover things like meter reading.

Though Ofcom will have to consider European harmonisation so it make a while to implement (Ofcom is hoping for systems to be in operation by 2013), this is a bold step by Ofcom in making use of 'wasted' spectrum and being very proactive.

Ofcom will have to introduce an SI (Statutory Instrument) which is passed by Parliament to amend the WTA (Wireless Telegraphy Act) to make the spectrum license exempt.
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