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Ofcom bringing new legislation to white space devices

The UK communications regulator Ofcom has revealed its proposed guidelines for the future rollout of 'white space' devices, due to be launched towards the end of 2013.

White space devices use the gaps in the spectrum between frequency bands normally reserved for radio, mobile and television transmissions. They operate on a low frequency spectrum ranging between 470MHz and 790MHz, which permits piggybacking wireless signals to pass through walls and enables long distance transmissions much more effectively than other wireless technologies. These benefits have led to some to point to the open spectrum as a possible solution to the provision of fast broadband to rural areas.

Ofcom's proposed framework spells out how prospective devices can function without disturbing existing spectrum licences. The new devices will operate without a license, and will not be permitted to transmit a frequency until authorised by an Ofcom-sanctioned database.

The database will also provide information on the location of white spaces and their respective power levels. Reports have also surfaced suggesting that the database will be run by an undisclosed third party.

"From rural broadband to enhanced Wi-Fi, white space technology offers significant opportunities for innovation and enterprise in the UK," said chief executive of Ofcom, Ed Richards.

"It also represents a fundamentally different approach to using spectrum by searching and recycling unused gaps in the airwaves. This could prove critical in averting a global spectrum capacity crunch, as consumers demand more bandwidth over different devices."

The proposal is still open for consultation until 10 January 2013, after which a finalised version will be sent to the European Commission for ratification.