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Ofcom: FM radio spectrum could be used for broadband

Regulator believes radio white spaces could be as useful as empty TV spectrum

Ofcom has revealed it is considering using spare radio airwaves to offer broadband to rural areas of the UK.

The regulator's announcement comes just weeks after two separate trials designed to look at the feasibility of using 'white spaces' or unused TV spectrums to offer net access. BT's trial is taking place in the Isle of Bute, while a consortium of tech firms, including Microsoft and the BBC, are trialling the technology in Cambridge.

Ofcom says the airwaves can be used to receive and transmit wireless signals that are are able to travel further and more easily through walls, making it ideal for rural areas where it is not economically viable to run fibre cables.

It is thought the switchover form analogue to digital radio will free up around half of the FM radio spectrum. However, while the digital TV switchover is expected to be completed by 2012, the government has yet to reveal when the digital radio switchover will take place.

"Spectrum is a resource that is in huge demand, fuelled by the recent explosion in smartphones and other wireless technologies. However there is only a limited amount of it to go around, which means we need to start thinking more creatively about how it is used. White space devices could offer the creative solution we are looking for," said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards.

Ofcom also revealed it has been working on a system to ensure devices using these spectrums don't interfere with each other.

"It is anticipated that all large-scale radio stations will migrate to digital and eventually cease to broadcast on analogue FM radio," Richards added.

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