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Ofcom promises improved wireless broadband with 'white space' technology

UK will be first European country to use the TV spectrum in this way

Ofcom has published plans to introduce "white space" wireless broadband technology in the UK, the first European country to do so.

White space broadband uses gaps in spectrum bands that have been reserved for TV broadcasts. These spaces offer significant capacity to help alleviate pressures on existing wireless networks.

The gaps on offer to users and providers will be available on an unlicensed basis, said Ofcom, which says the capacity on offer exceeds that currently available for 3G mobile network services.

It is expected the spectrum will be used to support rural broadband, faster WiFi, and localised services across communities, and applications in the office and the home, as users increasingly demand more bandwidth via their routers, smartphones and tablet devices.

As the technology is unlicensed it will be easy for providers to sell hardware, like routers and smartphones, enabled to search for white space spectrum when needed by the user to access a high-bandwidth applications, like video on demand or perhaps an ERP business application when mobile.

Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, said: "White spaces are currently lying vacant all around us. We have been leading the way to try to harness this capacity without causing harmful interference to existing users of the spectrum.

"We are creating the opportunity to maximise the efficient use of spectrum and open the door to the development of a new and exciting range of consumer and business applications."

Ofcom expects that white space services will be launched in the UK in 2013.

Earlier this year, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in the US published the IEEE 802.22 standard for using white spaces. The standard defines the unlicensed use of frequencies between TV channels in the VHF and UHF bands.

The IEEE said its standard could be used around the world, especially in rural areas and developing countries where there tend to be more vacant TV channels.

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