Ofcom white space trials to spur M2M development

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom says BT, Google and Microsoft are among the companies to have registered interest in participating in trials of so-called “white space” technology, which could provide a major spur to the development of M2M services.

Ofcom says approximately 20 companies will be chosen to test a wide range of applications based on white space technology, which uses unlicensed spectrum freed up by the transition from analog to digital broadcasting.

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom says BT, Google and Microsoft are among the companies to have registered interest in participating in trials of so-called “white space” technology, which could provide a major spur to the development of M2M services.

Ofcom says approximately 20 companies will be chosen to test a wide range of applications based on white space technology, which uses unlicensed spectrum freed up by the transition from analog to digital broadcasting.

Telecoms incumbent BT (London, UK) has already been chosen to work alongside M2M specialist Neul (Cambridge, UK) on a Department of Transport (DoT) project aimed at providing data on traffic conditions to moving vehicles through the use of white space technology.

Meanwhile, Microsoft (Seattle, WA, USA) is to with the University of Strathclyde on using white space technology to transform Glasgow into a smart city comprising a network of sensors.

Google (Mountain View, CA, USA) is one of several companies keen to work on testing “intelligent databases”, ensuring white space spectrum can be used without causing harmful interference to other devices.

In its statement on the trials, Ofcom notes that M2M will be a key driver of the forecast increase in the number of connected devices over the next few years.

But it also recognizes that the emergence of new M2M services will have a significant impact on spectrum use, highlighting the importance of the white space trials.

“In the future it won’t be just mobiles and tablets that are connected to the internet; billions of other things including cars, crops, coffee machines and cardiac monitors will also be connected, using tiny slivers of spectrum to get online,” said Steve Unger, Ofcom’s chief technology officer.

“This is likely to deliver large benefits to society; however there isn’t an unlimited supply of spectrum to meet this extraordinary demand,” he added. “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.”

Neul – the company partnering with BT on the DoT trial – is one of the founder members of the Weightless special interest group, which has developed an M2M communications standard based on the use of white space spectrum.

Weightless counts a number of high-profile organizations among its members, including Vodafone-controlled Cable & Wireless Worldwide (London, UK) and chip designer ARM (Cambridge, UK).