White space technology could be rolled out across the UK as early as next year, with regulator Ofcom revealing there are seven trials taking place involving the likes of Google and Microsoft.
Trials include the likes of next generation Wi-Fi, internet on ships and boats and using white spaces to stream live video onto YouTube. Ofcom said more trials will be launched in the coming months.
One example of the trials under way is the Oxford Flood Network, a citizen-built sensor network that provides flood warnings. The network is working with Love Hz and Nominet. White space is used to send information about water levels in real time using Adaptrum devices.
Another trial explores how triple-band Wi-Fi and other technology can be used to boost indoor and outdoor locations in cities. Ofcom said the trial, held by the University of Strathcylde's Centre for White Space Communications along with Microsoft, 6Harmonics, MediaTek, Spectrum Bridge and Sky, could help explore smart city functionality.
White space technology is also being used to connected areas with no wireless broadband. A trial between CloudNet IT Solutions, Fairspectrum and Carlson Wireless Technologies is connecting ferries travelling between the Orkney Islands and Pentland Firth.
CloudNet is hoping to extend the technology to other transport companies. In a seperate trial, Microsoft, Neul, recently bought by Huawei, and 6Harmonics are testing how white spaces could connect boats at sea in a trial with Click 4 Internet.
The latest trial to go live is using white spaces to stream live video of London Zoo's meerkats to YouTube. Ofcom is working with Google and its spectrum database with equipment from MediaTek and 6Harmonics.
Ofcom said white spaces could be eventually used to give internet access to rural communities, provide "Wi-Fi like" services, stream video wirelessly or connect machine to machine networks.
The regulator said white space technology can travel further distances and penetrate walls more easily then conventional Wi-Fi or Bluetooth tech. As well as new uses, the trials are identifying what spectrum can be used and how interference can be minimised or overcome.
Ofcom said once the trials and policy development have been completed, the technology could be rolled out in earnest.
Philip Marnick, Group Director, Spectrum Policy Group said: “In a world where consumers’ demand for data services is experiencing huge growth, it is essential we find the most efficient ways to share the airwaves. White space technology could be one way of meeting this demand.
“These trials are an important first step in Ofcom understanding whether white space can be used in other spectrum bands.”
Ofcom first announced details of the trials a year ago, claiming white spaces could solve growing strain on data networks.