Ofcom has given the green light for the launch of new wireless technology that utilises gaps in the radio spectrum known as white spaces.

Following a series of successful trials, a number of projects are already underway. These include internet access for ships and boats in the Orkney Islands, wireless video streaming of meerkats at ZSL London Zoo, new ‘machine-to-machine’ networks for flood defence in Oxfordshire and Wi-Fi-like services at the University of Strathclyde.

Philip Marnick, Ofcom Spectrum Group Director said: “Ofcom is laying the foundations for industry to use database controlled spectrum sharing to deliver innovative new services to benefit consumers and businesses.

“Spectrum is an important but limited resource, which is why we’re exploring new ways of unlocking its potential, while balancing the needs of different users.”

The regulator says White space spectrum in the TV frequency band is appealing for industry because it can travel longer distances and more easily through walls than the bands mainly used by other wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

To avoid interference, databases will communicate with these devices to give them technical constraints they must operate within. These databases identify locations, frequencies and times where white space devices will not affect existing users and will apply rules, set by Ofcom, which put limits on the power levels they can operate at.

The frequencies are currently used for digital terrestrial TV, and on a shared basis with wireless microphones used for programme making and special events (PMSE).

Based on the trials and stakeholder feedback, there is considerable interest from industry in developing this technology. Ofcom believes commercial applications for this white space technology could emerge by the end of the year.

Ofcom is exploring how the white space in other spectrum bands could be used for similar innovation in the future.