A consortium of ISPs, including BT and BSkyB along with the BBC and Nokia, and lead by Microsoft are to undertake white-space technology trials in Cambridge to evaluate how it works in rural and urban areas. Dubbed 'Super Wi-Fi' by the FCC, the US spectrum regulator, the technology makes use of unused frequencies between TV broadcasts which are left empty to avoid interference. The consortium calling them selves, Cambridge TV White Spaces Consortium, is looking to see if this unused spectrum can be viably used to provide broadband services. As the frequencies used (470MHz-790MHz) are much lower than those used by regular Wi-Fi, the signals can travel much further, and are able to penetrate further into buildings. Neul, one of the companies involved in the consortium, has a production-ready system which can deliver up to 16Mbps at a range of 10km.
"With the number of connected devices and data applications growing rapidly, and with mobile networks feeling the strain, we must find ways of satisfying the traffic demands of today and tomorrow. This trial will attempt to demonstrate that unused TV spectrum is well-placed to increase the UK's available mobile bandwidth, which is critical to effectively responding to the exponential growth in data-intensive services, while also enabling future innovation."Statement by the Consortium
BT are already planning white-space trials on the Isle of Bute to evaluate whether the technology is suitable for the company to provide broadband services.
In order for the system work, devices that connect will have to receive a location database to work out which frequencies can be used. This is due to the frequencies which are available being different depending on what signals you can receive from TV transmitters in your area. Ofcom have previous consulted on the implementation of this, and are working to enable the frequencies to be available for use without license.