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Ofcom suggest 'white space' technology could use FM band
Thursday 07 July 2011 16:09:09 by John Hunt

Further 'white space' spectrum will become available in the future which could be used for rural broadband solutions in the UK. Trials are currently being undertaken of technology which allows network operators to use the gaps between digital TV channels to be used for wireless networking technology. This has been called 'super Wi-Fi' by some as it allows Wi-Fi type signals to travel much further than existing technologies.

Ofcom is considering allowing the use of the same technologies between FM radio channels where it thinks it will also be suitable for offering broadband services. Currently, FM radio stations are in the process of moving over to digital radio, and the government is keen for the switch to be completed by 2015, although this date may be optimistic. The frequencies used (87.5MHz - 108MHz) could then be available for use by wireless broadband services.

"Spectrum is a resource that is in huge demand, fuelled by the recent explosion in smart phones 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."

Ed Richards, (Chief Executive) Ofcom

BT announced in June that they were conducting a broadband access trial using white space technology on the Isle of Bute, whilst a consortium of companies have committed to running a separate test in Cambridge.


Posted by Dixinormous over 6 years ago
Woah, wireless down that low in the spectrum would have a ton more reach than the current 900MHz+ stuff.
Posted by lloydio over 6 years ago
FM Gone by 2015! What a joke, who has a DAB radio? I threw mine out a few years ago because the signal was crap. Be listening and then all of a sudden it sounded like spoons and graters!
Posted by wirelesspacman over 6 years ago
20MHz of spectrum won't do much - particularly if it covers a large area due to the "improved" reach.
Posted by Bob_s2 over 6 years ago
This seems a prety daft idea and is bound to cause all sorts of interference. The spacing between channels is there for a purpose it is to prevent adjecent channel interference. The FM band is currently used for a raft of other services such as hospital pagers and shipping

The FM signal under certain conditions can travel thousands of miles although normally you are looking at no more than 50 miles.

If will wreck the carefull band planning which is carefully worked out to avoid interference as far as possible.

Posted by timmay over 6 years ago
With such wide coverage there will not be enough capacity. That said with low enough output power it still might be good for small areas where high frequencies simply will not work due to local clutter (trees/buildings). Still everything is dependant on price of the radios and there being a market after 3G coverage has expanded on 900Mhz.
Posted by TGVrecord over 6 years ago
DAB radio is so expensive. Very few sets are under £50 whilst a cheap FM radio can be picked up for as little as £10. Add in the power consumption which means batteries only last a short while. With money being short at the moment it will be a while before I would consider buying a DAB radio. Frankly if the Government insisted on the 2015 deadline it would effectively disenfranchise most of the radio audiences.
Posted by tmcr over 6 years ago
Apart from the debate over DAB not happening in 2015, there are loads of smaller stations like community radio on FM that will not be going digital. Add to those the stations currently on AM who will be moved to FM - IF the big boys ever go digital only.
I'm looking forward to it - when I can bin my DAB tuner, along with all the bland stations that play the same ten songs over and over, and listen to some really local radio generated by the volunteers of community stations.
Sadly, I can't see it ever happening now.
Posted by otester over 6 years ago
Scrap all the radio spectrum, old people can listen via internet radio, rest of us get faster wireless.
Posted by TGVrecord over 6 years ago
It would be ironic for people to access internet radio using the FM spectrum!
Posted by vicdupreez over 6 years ago
I wish we could stop entertaining these half measures and crappy piecemeal offerings and come up with a plan to do the fibre thing to everyone.

The Aussies are selling off the replaced copper in their National Broadband Network to help pay for some of it. I would bet that BT have not added this to the calculations, since they have used a lot of aluminium in the 80's in an effort to save money...

Do not get me wrong. I am not saying BT should pay for it all. That would not be fair. Lets just come up with a plan and get it done...
Posted by otester over 6 years ago

If the government stopped promoting artificial competition and allowed real competition then we wouldn't need plan.
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
"It would be ironic for people to access internet radio using the FM spectrum! "

- no more than using 4G to get internet access to watch TV that previously came over analogue UHF on the same frequency. The old ways were way more efficient though - broadcast not unicast.
Posted by mpellatt over 6 years ago
Bob_S2 mentions the careful band planning, but there's a precedent for throwing away decent spectrum planning - the introduction of Channel 5 which the dead-head commercial guys thought was into "white space".
Ofcom really haven't a clue technically and are clearly in thrall to commercial interests - look at the PLT fiasco (bet that'll come back to haunt them soon).
The broadcasters are running away from DAB, not towards it.
Finally, just drive round London and count the number of pirate stations broadcasting on FM.
It's dead Jim, dead.
Posted by otester over 6 years ago

If they made a deal with the mobile networks that they could have all the TV spectrum but had to broadcast the channels for free over their network, that would be more efficient.

Maximum of 1Mbps downstream per STD channel and 4Mbps for 720p.
Posted by Bob_s2 over 6 years ago
@herdwick you clearly do not understand RF propogation and bandwith requirements. You suggestion is completly impossible
Posted by NetGuy over 6 years ago
I think the knowledgeable staff at Ofcom have all retired. To propose using portions of the 88-108 MHz band for data is just ridiculous.

Has been a long time since I did radio and line transmission theory (35 years) so don't have the details to hand, but at such low frequencies the data rates will also be low.

Not forgetting the existing users would wipe the floor with low powered 'wi-fi' signals.

Ofcom 0/100 - need to sack the people suggesting this.
Posted by michaels_perry over 6 years ago
Think carefully! The UHF analogue TV service does not have any spare space between channels. Each channel requires a minimum of 8 MHz and then 'empty' airspace to avoid both adjacent- and co-channel interference. This is equally vital with digital transmissions. So where are they finding any spectrum that is not used? The spectrum usage was carefully planned to avoid interference but this plan destroys that planning at both VHF and UHF. DAB doesn't help either.
Posted by rided over 6 years ago
I think that the objective of 2015 for ceasing FM radio transmissions is totally unrealistic. Does anyone know of any cars that are currently fitted with DAB radios? Furthermore, has anybody heard whether any car manufacturers have stated when they will be fitting DAB units as standard?
Posted by rizla over 6 years ago
Most of the DAB channels don't even broadcast FM quality audio.

DAB has been a disaster from start to finish in the UK - much like the 15 YEAR rollout of digital TV.

DAB in a car outside the M25? You're surely having a laugh.

FM will go because the BBC wants it gone, not Ofcom.
Posted by rizla over 6 years ago
Oh and of course all your current DAB equipment is obsolete - you just haven't been told that yet.

You will be.
Posted by Bob_s2 over 6 years ago
Posted by michaels_perry about 7 hours ago
Think carefully! The UHF analogue TV service does not have any spare space between channels. Each channel requires a minimum of 8 MHz and then 'empty' airspace to avoid both adjacent- and co-channel interference

The space is need only to avoid adjacent channel interference

Co- channel interference is avoided by have a buffer zone aroun it. ie the channel is not reused in the same area. This was why channel 5 was so difficult and some areas could not get it. It would have interferred with other UK channels and insome case continental channels

Posted by jtwebb over 6 years ago
I cant believe they are still planning on getting rid of FM. Having just bought a radio which does both FM and DAB the DAB quality is totally unacceptable. The signal is poor and I dont see what one does with modern cars which have FM radios built in.
Posted by Bob_s2 over 6 years ago
The quality of DAB is terrble whih is probably he main reason it is not taking off. Why pay about 3 times as much to get worse quality?

Now OFCOM whan to make it worse by using the white space for WiFi. It just defies credability
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