“White spaces” are gaps in radio and TV frequency airwaves which can be used to carry wireless signals, such as internet connection.
It is appealing to the technology industry because the white spaces in the TV frequency band can travel longer distances, as well as more easily through walls than other wireless technology like wifi or Bluetooth. The green light could see wider-ranging internet connections across the UK by the end of the year, Ofcom said.
The approval of the technology, following a series of trials, could be a watershed moment for the communications industry, as it opens the door for the development of “white space devices” that can harness this signal, and use it to provide better services to businesses and regular internet users.
Steve Unger, Ofcom’s acting chief executive, said: “This decision helps ensure the UK takes a leading role in the development of innovative new wireless technology. It is also an important step in helping the UK’s wireless infrastructure evolve effectively and efficiently.”
As part of the trials , ships in the Orkney Islands were given internet access for the first time and ZSL London Zoo set up live streams of some of their animals, delivered over white spaces.
The University of Strathclyde also used white space internet connections as an alternative to wifi. The trials were deemed successful enough for Ofcom to open up the technology to a wider audience.
Ofcom said it is now working on the rules for industry to use TV white spaces, involving the creation of databases to ensure that adding new signals to the existing frequency spectrum does not interfere with other signals.