BT, Microsoft and Google to take part in UK white space pilot to boost available spectrum

As more and more products utilise wireless connectivity, spectrum is becoming increasingly in demand, yet it remains a limited resource.

White space technology utilises the gaps between frequency bands in radio spectrum, so is able to boost the amount of spectrum available.

In April, Ofcom announced a white space trial that would use the gaps in the frequency bands used to broadcast digital terrestrial TV. It believes that the technology could help support the 50 billion devices forecast to be connected to the Internet wirelessly by 2020.

Now, the telecoms regulator has revealed the 20 firms including BT, Microsoft and Google which will take part in the pilot over the next six months.

The trials will be going on across the UK and are designed to test a variety of innovative applications such as making broadband available in hard to reach rural places, sensors that monitor the behaviour of cities and dynamic information for road users.

Examples include Microsoft testing how white spaces can provide people with access to free Wi-Fi in Glasgow, which has the lowest level of broadband take-up of all UK cities and BT along with Neul2, which will work with the Department for Transport to test the potential enhancement of traffic information as part of a wider project.

"Access to spectrum is fundamental to the future success of the UK's digital economy, providing the infrastructure that underpins all wireless communications," said Ed Richards, Ofcom's Chief Executive.

"The upcoming white space pilot is a very exciting development, which has attracted an impressive line-up of participants, ranging from global tech giants to innovative UK start-ups. This is an excellent opportunity for the UK to help lead in the world of spectrum and one that could deliver huge benefits to society."

Steve Unger, Ofcom Chief Technology Officer, added: "Spectrum is the raw material that will underpin the next revolution in wireless communications.

"This is likely to deliver large benefits to society; however there isn't an unlimited supply of spectrum to meet this extraordinary demand. This is why we need to explore new ways of unlocking the potential of spectrum – like white space technology – to get the most from this valuable national resource."