Ofcom announces Whitespace trial

Ofcom the super regulator is planning to hold a Whitespace trial later in the year. Whitespace is just spectrum that is not used in certain areas as it may interfere with other services in neighbouring areas (such as TV station broadcasts, the country is divided into areas such that neighbouring TV broadcasting transmitters don't use the same frequencies as their neighbours).

The unused spectrum is therefore 'wasted', but with careful management, can be used for localised services such as wireless broadband.

Neul is a technology leader based out of Cambridge (spun out of Cambridge Silicon Radio or CSR, now owned by Samsung) and already have systems available to use whitespace frequencies. Neul even have a chipset available for end-user devices.

There are (and have been) several whitespace trials, but these have been limited to localised technology trials.

One of the features that is required for whitespace to work is a centralised database of locations, frequencies and power levels. Generally there will be a central base station which will have to contact the database and report its position and it can then use that information to select the frequencies and power levels to use. End-user devices will just scan the whitespace bands and look for a carrier and can just use that as a base, from which it can then retrieve information about what other frequencies to use.

A quirk of the system is that Ofcom has mandated a kill switch so that if interference with commercial TV or other is found, all devices using whitespace can be shut-off in an area.

Ofcom has not specified how the database should be implemented, just the queries and responses that should be supported, it will be up to the market to decide how to implement. Database operators will be able to charge for running the service (again not specified, but it may be based on queries of the database).

This trial will again test the technology but also database implementations etc.

Ofcom's statement is on-line and any interested party wishing to take place in the trial can email TV.WhiteSpaces@ofcom.org.uk

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