We previously wrote about the use of spare TV signal space being used to provide broadband services to rural areas, and now communications regulator Ofcom have revealed they are considering using the FM radio airwaves as well.

The idea would be an extension of the TV white space trials, such as the one set to take place in Cambridge, using the space vacated by radio stations switching from FM frequencies to more modern digital spectrums. If successful, the technology would give rural communities and businesses access to faster, more reliable internet services allowing them to take advantage of service such as Business VoIP.

Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards, mentioned that the technology would be borne out of necessity:

“Spectrum is a resource that is in huge demand, fuelled by the recent explosion in smart phones and other wireless technologies. We need to start thinking more creatively about how it is used.”

However, while the move to test TV white space is underway, there are no set dates for using FM radio frequencies as the UK Government repeatedly refuse to set a final date for radio stations to switch from FM to digital. TV white space is also seen as a more attractive option as it is used only for television, whereas the radio waves are used for a host of broadcasts.

Add slow take up and patchy coverage for DAB radio, and it could be a while before any significant moves are made, with The Telegraph speculating that providers may not enter the radio spectrum broadband market “for decades”.

The technology would definitely help those in rural areas, but other options, such as TV white space and, even, the electricity networks, look to be more viable and attractive to private investors.

(Image by David Goehring)


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