Ofcom has put forward plans to run an ‘enhanced Wi-Fi’ service using the white space within the existing TV spectrum.
The UK would be the first country to launch such a service that would be capable of covering twice the range of Wi-Fi technology available today. The regulator said the recycling of the spectrum was a highly efficient way of making use of limited resources. It is anticipated that the available spectrum would be equal to that currently available to 3G services – significantly more in some locations.
Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, said Ofcom had identified the potential for the White Spaces at an early stage. “Within Europe, we have been leading the way to try to harness this capacity without causing harmful interference to existing users of the spectrum. The solution we have devised creates the opportunity to maximise the efficient use of spectrum and open the door to the development of a new and exciting range of consumer and business applications”
Enhanced Wi-Fi would typically operate at between 470 and 790MHz, enabling networks to work right across towns and cities, as opposed to the 2.4GHz where similar services sit.
The White Spaces could be extended to provide rural locations with broadband services – such areas often the preserve of broadband by satellite. Trials are currently being undertaken by industry to test this on the island of Bute, Scotland.
The main difference between traditional Wi-Fi and the White Space method is that the White Space router – or ‘master’ device as it is known technically – will first need to consult a list of databases hosted online. It will notify one of these databases of its location and update it on a regular basis. The database will then return details of the radio-frequencies and power levels it is allowed to use.
Ofcom says that this method will ensure it will not interfere with existing users of the spectrum, notably digital terrestrial television and wireless microphones.
Ofcom expects that White Space technology could be launched in the UK in 2013.
Ofcom is also considering the future use of other White Spaces – such as those in the band currently used by FM radio services.