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Ofcom’s Freeview white space broadband pilots aim for national launch in 2014

White space radio for rural broadband, WiFi hotspots, wireless media streaming and Skynet-style machine-to-machine comms could launch in late 2014.

Communications regulator Ofcom hopes a set of pilot schemes will iron out issues for low-power broadband in the gaps between Freeview signals.

White space could be used to tackle rural broadband not-spots, WiFi hotspots at home and in public, in-home multimedia distribution, and machine-to-machine communication such as smart meters and murderous killer robots.

Ofcom’s Freeview white space broadband pilots aim for national launch in 2014
How white space device (WSD) broadband could work in London

Read Recombu Digital’s guide to TV White Space“In some areas, allocated spectrum is not used in all locations and/or at all times. This is referred to as “white spaces” and it can be used by other devices and services,” says Ofcom’s consultation on TV White Spaces: Approach To Coexistence.

“A new way to access spectrum, known as dynamic spectrum access, provides a means to use this spectrum. 

“Under this approach, white space devices can change their spectrum use in response, for example, to the needs of other spectrum users.”

Ofcom’s pilot programmes would run from late 2013 to early 2014, allowing Ofcom to test drive the computer planning models it’s developed in earlier small trials around the UK.

They should lead to rules of engagement for white space devices in summer 2014, with the first devices and services launching by the autumn.

White space broadband will involve master devices telling slave devices which frequencies they can use to avoid interfering with Freeview or other registered users such as live performance radio microphones, and how powerfully they can transmit.

The master device will get this information from a commercial white space device, operated under contract for Ofcom, which will carry maps of the gaps in Freeview coverage and details of other users.

Ofcom’s Freeview white space broadband pilots aim for national launch in 2014
Master white space devices would get information from a database to instruct slave devices

Like today’s 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi devices, white space devices will be unlicensed, so anyone can buy and sell them without having to register with Ofcom.

A variety of white space radio power levels will be tested in areas with different mixtures of Freeview signals from surrounding transmitters, and other users such as live performance radio microphones.

The pilots will also reveal the performance of different white space technologies such as IEEE 802.11af, Weightless, and WiMax in the field.

Ofcom’s pre-pilot consultation period will close on Friday November 15, 2013.


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