Ofcom investigates TV 'white spaces'


Ofcom has pledged to investigate potential consumer uses for unoccupied radio waves between TV channels known as "white spaces".

Unused spaces in the spectrum traditionally used by TV services - which can travel further and pass more easily through walls as compared to other frequencies - are being evaluated by Ofcom for possible use by other applications.

The watchdog believes that unused capacity on these frequencies could be utilised to provide enhanced mobile broadband in remote rural areas where coverage has previously been patchy.

In addition, the frequencies could further free up a range of white space devices, including digital cameras able to transmit photos to a PC the moment they are taken or remote controlled home utilities, such as ovens or central heating, able to be activated from great distances.

However, the regulator first wants to make sure that these applications and devices would not interfere with existing TV broadcasts or other wireless devices, such as wireless microphones, before green-lighting their development.

Towards this aim, a "geolocation database" could be established containing live information about which frequencies are available for use and where.

"White space devices have the potential to enable a vast range of new and innovative applications - from broadband access for rural communities, to innovative personal consumer applications - each benefiting from improved signal reliability, capacity, and range offered by unused TV frequencies," said Ofcom head of research and development professor William Webb.

"However, this technology remains largely unproven and a significant amount of work needs to be done before these claims can be tested. The purpose of this discussion document is to further the thinking that is taking place around the world on geolocation and speed the development of possible solutions."

Should "strong evidence" show at the end of its consultation that white space devices can operate on frequencies without interfering with existing spectrum usage, then Ofcom is prepared to permit them without the need for an individual licence.