Ofcom has just announced that it is proceeding with the opening of licence exempt access to the TV white spaces.This is a landmark decision, opening the door to a new era in more flexible access to spectrum. It complements the forms of spectrum access, largely licensed, by exploiting new dynamic spectrum access (DSA) technology
DSA allows unused spectrum capacity to be identified e.g. through a national database of available channels in each area. This means that devices which need to form a link can do so without disrupting established services and applications. In the case of TV white spaces, the established uses include Digital Terrestrial Television (the primary spectrum user) and wireless microphones (and related equipment, referred to as 'Programme Making and Special Events' (PMSE) devices)
DSA enables spectrum to be used more efficiently, by allowing opportunistic access to unused pockets of capacity - e.g. in rural areas. Users or communities can purchase their own equipment to take advantage of this spectrum - e.g. to fill holes in broadband coverage, complementing service availability from national operators, for example.
After working with industry over a number of years and learning from the FCC experience, Ofcom developed a frameowrk for using the TV white spaces. It has been conducting a Pilot of this framework since 2013, in which a number of projects from across the UK have been taking part. Scotland has seen a number of interesting deployments - starting with the first UK TVWS trial network , back in 2011, then with the University of Strathclyde's city centre campus deployment (Glasgow) and more recently the pilot network aimed at bringing Wi-Fi to Orkney ferries. Ofcom's release lists these together with an appealing zoo animal watch application provided by Google and a flood detection network in Oxford - with LoveHz and Nominet cooperating.