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11 March 2015
Every day there are more connected mobile devices, each using more mobile data. The conundrum for Ofcom – the UK telecoms regulator – is that only so much spectrum is available. As 5G and the Internet of Things appear on the horizon, the regulator has sought to address the issue by green-lighting an innovative new use of television white space spectrum.(1)
'White space' refers to the sometimes-unused spectrum gaps (between 470 and 790 megahertz) left between television and PMSE (programme making and special events) broadcasts. Ofcom has been looking to exploit this space for a while. It is particularly interesting because of its low frequency; white space spectrum performs even better than WiFi and Bluetooth when travelling through walls and over long distances. This reliability is its selling point.
The regulator is mindful of the potential impact of filling the spectrum gaps. It has announced a new approach to controlling the use of this spectrum: it will allocate use via its 'dynamic database' and has decided not to charge users a licence fee. This dynamic database is being designed to control how the spectrum is shared and will allow access to white space devices only where no harmful interference will be caused to existing users. Rather than bidding for licences to use the spectrum (as with previous spectrum auctions), users must simply ensure that their white space devices meet Ofcom's technical requirements.
White space spectrum is scheduled to be made available by the end of 2015; this creates a big opportunity for innovation in the world of machine-to-machine connectivity. Mobile app producers can give users the ability to wirelessly connect more of the devices, appliances and technology in their lives. The much-vaunted Internet of Things now has an alternative route to the reliable network which it needs to get off the ground.
For further information on this topic please contact Louis Huglin or Purvi Parekh at Olswang LLP by telephone (+44 20 7067 3000) or email (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org). The Olswang website can be accessed at www.olswang.com.
(1) Ofcom statement available at media.ofcom.org.uk/news/2015/tvws-statement/?utm_source=updates&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tvws-statement.
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