Ofcom sign up Microsoft, Google and BT for biggest white space trial yet

Could help anything from rural broadband to traffic management

Ofcom logo

Ofcom is gearing up to launch a series of 'white space' trials to see how unused radio spectrum can be used to provide wireless connectivity to devices in a range of scenarios.

Because the bands of low frequency spectrum that sit between digital terrestrial TV channels known as 'white spaces' can travel over long distances, they've been deemed useful for providing broadband in rural areas, powering embedded data sensors in soil and even helping cars judge speed on motorways.

Over 20 organisations are taking part in the trials, which are due to begin before the end of the year. BT will be working with Cambridge-based company Neul and the Department of Transport to test traffic management technology along the A14.

Microsoft will test how white spaces can provide people with access to free Wi-Fi in Glasgow, which has the lowest level of broadband take-up in the UK.

Dynamic databases

Mark Caines, Director of Spectrum Policy at Ofcom, told TRPro that the pilot will move beyond white space trials previously held in Cambridge and on Scotland's Isle of Bute, which used fixed white space frequencies to provide broadband in hard to reach areas.

He said: "Those trials were very useful in telling us something about what you can do with particular radio frequencies, but they didn't test the geolocation database approach, which is where we now move to the next stage. Rather than giving somebody a lisence so you can transmit and receive in a particular bit of spectrum, we're moving to a world in which the database tells you whether you can transmit or not."