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BT to test drive ‘white-space’ broadband in Cornwall

BT is setting up a test-drive for wireless broadband services which use gaps between Freeview broadcasts to reach up to 10km.

The ‘white space’ test will connect rural communities in Cornwall which are currently taking part in a trial of 4G mobile broadband – due to end this summer.

The complex new technology finds gaps between Freeview signals, but is cheaper than installing underground cables to rural communities.

BT engineer at work

Sean Williams, BT’s head of group strategy, told the Financial Times this is the first time anyone has built a white space broadband service on a commercial scale.

The trial follows experiments in Cambridge and on the Isle of Bute, and BT hopes to launch a service nationwide later this year.

The trial is being conducted with communications regulator Ofcom, which wants to see if it’s possible to build a list of official frequency users that white-space devices can scan to find gaps to work in.

If successful, Ofcom wants to export the concept to Europe so that white-space devices have a common standard which will make them cheaper to make and sell.

Ed Richards, Ofcom’s chief executive, told European regulators yesterday that there will be a ‘spectrum crunch’ across the continent if they do not explore new technology and create a framework for launching new services.