Ofcom has outlined an innovative plan to help close the digital divide by suggesting that spectrum freed up when major FM broadcasters switch to digital frequencies could be used for white space technology.
White space technology uses gaps in spectrum frequencies used by other services to deliver data within these spaces. As such, it could be used to deliver mobile broadband access in remote areas to small numbers of homes and businesses, or handle traffic for machine-to-machine communications.
The FM spectrum will eventually be used only by a handful of smaller, more localised stations, meaning that there will be numerous gaps in different regions that could be used to deliver data over the airwaves.
Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards explained that all options had to be considered to make the most of spectrum holdings in the UK as mobile data use continues to grow.
"Spectrum is a resource that is in huge demand, fuelled by the recent explosion in smartphones and other wireless technologies," he said.
"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."
Any device running in this way will have to plug into a live 'map' that shows the frequency that is available in different geographies to avoid interference issues.
Ofcom is currently consulting on how to ensure that the technology could be introduced without affecting other spectrum licence holders.
A consortium of firms including BT and Microsoft are running a trial of the technology in Cambridge, as the industry continues to look for new ways to make broadband a ubiquitous commodity.
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