White open space
Ofcom has detailed how a new form of wireless communication called 'white space technology' will work in practice.
The regulator's move follows an earlier consultation exploring the technology's potential and manufacturers have now suggested that ‘white space technology' could wirelessly link up different devices and offer enhanced broadband access in rural areas.
Ofcom said: "The technology works by searching for unused radio waves called "white spaces" between TV channels to transmit and receive wireless signals."
Compared with other forms of wireless technology, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, white-space devices are designed to use lower frequencies that have traditionally been reserved for TV and such signals are able to travel further and more easily through walls.
Ofcom has set out the processes needed to successfully launch the technology and how new devices will be made available to consumers without the need for a licence.
While it is important that white space devices do not interfere with TV broadcasts and other wireless technologies that share these frequencies, Ofcom believes a "geolocation database" could be consulted that contains live information about which frequencies are free to use at their current location and intends to make it possible for interested companies to host such databases in 2011.
In regard to how such technology would work, Ofcom said it will function similarly to Wi-Fi, which uses a wireless router to send and receive information to other wireless devices. However, a key difference is that the white space router will first need to consult a list of databases hosted online. It will describe its location and device characteristics to one of these databases on a regular basis and the database will then return details of the frequencies and power levels it is allowed to use.
Professor William Webb, director of technology resources at Ofcom, said: "The airwaves that wireless devices depend on are becoming increasingly congested. We need to think about more efficient ways of using this limited resource. Using the white spaces between TV channels is a good example of how we can both use spectrum more efficiently and provide opportunities for innovative new applications and services.
"Our role is to encourage innovation rather than decide on what technology and applications should succeed. To that end, we hope that these frequencies, which offer improved signal reliability, capacity, and range over existing wireless technologies, will bring clear benefits for consumers," he added.
Once all responses to Ofcom's latest consultation have been collected on 7 December, it will propose a draft Statutory Instrument to make white space devices licence exempt. This will be consulted on before being brought into effect.
Ofcom predicts there will be a regulatory and technical regime in place to support white space technology by the close of 2011.