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Ofcom looks to bring broadband to rural areas

White Space technology to help bring remote places online

Residents of rural areas who are beyond the reach of conventional broadband connection could soon benefit from a new wireless technology that will enable them to get online more efficiently.

Businesses and homes in these areas have previously found it hard to obtain broadband because of their distance from exchanges.

Industry regulator Ofcom has announced details of how the new service 'white space technology' will work in practice. Drawing on frequencies that have previously been reserved for TV, the technology exploits 'white spaces' between TV channels to transmit and receive wireless signals. Like conventional Wi-Fi, it uses routers but also needs access to a list of databases. The router will describe its location and device characteristics to one of these databases, which, in turn, will describe which frequencies the router will be able to use.

The watchdog has launched a consultation that will determine the processes required to make this technology a commercial reality, Ofcom wants responses for this consultation by December 7. The next step is for the regulator to propose a draft Statutory Instrument to make white space devices licence exempt. Ofcom hopes that the by the end of next year, the technology and regulatory regime will be in place for white space services to be made available.

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."

See also: Govt to spend £530m to deliver rural broadband


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