New trials of White Space frequency-sharing technology will see BT wiring up the A14 road between Felixstowe and Cambridge, while Microsoft rolls out a Glasgow-wide Wi-Fi network – meaning these areas will be the first to find out whether White Space will work in Blighty.
The trials will run later this year, ahead of next year's legislative changes which should make unlicensed use of White Space spectrum open to the rest of us. That's assuming the trials, of both wireless kit and back-end databases, go well. Encouragingly, there are some big names betting that they will.
BT has hooked up with Internet of Things startup Neul to blanket the A14 in wireless coverage for monitoring traffic levels and linking up roadside furniture. Neul is something of a white space pioneer, having developed the Weightless M2M standard and proved much of the initial potential, but the Cambridge startup has ruthlessly reorganised itself recently to focus exclusively on M2M.
That leaves Canadian wireless biz 6Harmonics to work with Microsoft on linking up Glasgow with a citywide Wi-Fi network, along with the University of Strathclyde. Glasgow is quite a good place to test White Space as it's covered by a patchwork of TV transmitters, which should prove a suitable challenge for the database providers.
Those providers are a subset of those operating in the US - Google, Spectrum Bridge, Key Bridge and Fairspectrum are being joined by .UK domain overlord Nominet, which also fancies itself in the role.
White Space devices use locally empty radio spectrum, in this case TV transmission frequencies. A White Space device first contacts Ofcom to get a list of databases, and from this list selects a preferred provider and reports its location and the protocol it would like to use. The database responds with a suitable band and a maximum transmission power, data which has to be renewed every few hours in case of changes. That data is then passed on to client devices and the network starts running.
Device manufacturers are expected to pay database providers for the service, while the databases will value-add with accumulated data and fast response times, as well as discounted pricing, but that won't come until the technology has proved itself. ®