Ofcom looks to FM Radio white spaces for rural broadband


Ofcom has joined a growing band of communications companies looking at so called "white spaces" to bring broadband to remote parts of the UK.

Whilst others have looked at taking advantage of freed up spectrum from the digital TV switchover, Ofcom has proposed doing the same with FM spectrum.

"Spectrum is a resource that is in huge demand, fuelled by the recent explosion in smartphones and other wireless technologies," said Ofcom chief executive (CEO) Ed Richards.

"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."

White spaces are being considered by the telecoms industry to bring broadband services to the truly remote areas of the UK.

Certain locations in the UK suffer from painfully slow broadband connections, largely because of technical issues. ADSL connections can fail to deliver decent speeds to premises at the end of the wire, often those places in rural areas.

Nigel Hawthorne, vice president of marketing at Blue Coat for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), recently told IT Pro over Twitter he was looking forward to the days when white spaces would provide for rural homes like his.

"Economically cables of any sort (copper, fibre) just aren't going to make sense. The future is wireless," Hawthorne said.

BT announced it was entering the white space game with a trial on the Scottish Isle of Bute, where it will hope to bring at least 2Mbps to the community over the airwaves.

BT Openreach chief executive (CEO) Olivia Garfield said the initial results of testing the technology were "very encouraging."

"It's early days but our hope is that this technology may provide an effective solution for not spots' and slow spots,'" Garfield said.

Last month, start-up firm Neul announced it had received 8 million in funding, which it will use to create products for taking advantage of white spaces.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.