Citizens and consumers in the UK continue to increase their use of wireless data devices such as smartphones and tablets. At the same time, there is substantial innovation worldwide in applications, services and devices that use wireless data. As a result, demand for wireless data has grown rapidly, and continues to do so. Wireless data communications require access to radio waves, known as spectrum. Spectrum is divided into different frequency bands and allocated for particular types of use. The majority of spectrum is allocated using licences, for instance licences to operate mobile phone services. Other spectrum use is made licence exempt, such as that for Wi-Fi.
However in some areas, allocated spectrum is not used in all locations and/or at all times. This is referred to as “white spaces” and it can be used by other devices and services. A new way to access spectrum, known as dynamic spectrum access, provides a means to use this spectrum. Under this approach, white space devices can change their spectrum use in response, for example, to the needs of other spectrum users. This is a form of spectrum sharing, and provides a way to use spectrum that otherwise lie fallow.
Growth in demand for wireless data makes a strong case for increasing the efficiency of spectrum use through these sorts of techniques. This consultation focuses on white spaces in the frequencies from 470 MHz to 790 MHz (the UHF TV band) which are currently used for Digital Terrestrial Television and by Programme Making and Special Events users.