Ofcom has launched a consultation on the use of 'white space' technology to ease congestion on wireless networks and improve network coverage in the UK's more remote areas.
The technology works by accessing unused radio waves, or white spaces, between 400-800MHz used for TV signals to transmit and receive data.
The available spectrum varies depending on location, and the Ofcom consultation proposes the creation of a central database managed by a third-party that other companies would access to determine any unused frequencies.
William Webb, director of technology resources at Ofcom, told V3.co.uk that white space technology could have a number of key benefits, including closing the digital divide.
"These frequencies are able to transmit over long distances and, although there is less capacity than 3G networks, it may well be of interest to firms wanting to increase network coverage in remote areas, or to new entrants in the market," he said.
"It could even help deliver broadband in some rural areas, like the Scottish islands, or for campus-wide networks. Microsoft uses this technology on its Redmond campus to provide connections between buildings, for example."
Webb explained that the speed of the connections would vary depending on the number of users on a network or proximity to the transmitter, but could be at least 2Mbit/s.
The technology would also have benefits over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as its lower frequency allows it to travel longer distances and penetrate walls more easily.
'White space' has been discussed for almost a decade, but the market has not had the ability or need to take advantage of the technology until now.
"It's only now that mobile devices have the capabilities to communicate with networks to pass on location data or access the internet, and as data use grows rapidly these factors have combined to make this technology a viable option," said Webb.
Smartphones would require new components to access the frequencies, but 120-130MHz of licence-free spectrum in locations across the UK could generate innovative new services.
"With this consultation we are hoping that we can get feedback from interested parties on the framework we have put forward so that within six to 12 months we will have done everything we can to help people start using the technology," said Webb.
The consultation closes on 7 December.
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