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TV white spaces - A consultation on white space device requirements

Summary

Executive Summary

1.1 The term "white space spectrum" refers to frequencies that are not being used by existing licensees at all times or at all locations. A white space device can make use of these frequencies provided that the risk of harmful interference to the licensed users of the spectrum can be appropriately managed.

1.2 Location-aware wireless devices, assisted by databases which provide information on white space availability taking into account existing licensed use, offer the promise of opportunistic access to under-utilised frequency bands around the United Kingdom for innovative and useful services. We believe that such database-assisted operation can also be a key enabling technology for the efficient and dynamic sharing of spectrum in a variety of frequency bands.

1.3 We have been investigating the prospects of access to white spaces in the UHF TV band (-1-) (also known as TV white spaces) since 2007. Following a series of consultations, in 2011 we issued a statement Implementing Geolocation: Summary of consultation responses and next steps (-2-) ("2011 Statement") which set out our approach for authorising the use of TV white spaces (-3-). We concluded that licence exempt devices could be authorised to use TV white spaces, so long as they radiated in specific frequencies and at specific powers communicated to them by TV white space databases that had met Ofcoms requirements. Under these conditions, we believed that it would be achievable to ensure that such devices would not cause harmful interference to the existing licensed services.

1.4 In paragraph 4.2 of the 2011 Statement we noted that we would:

"work with stakeholders to finalise the critical activities that are necessary for setting up a suitable regulatory framework to manage and update the flow of information to and from a geolocation database. Ofcom intends to set up further workshops and direct engagement with those interested parties to facilitate definition of the key areas of detail."

1.5 Furthermore in paragraph 1.20 we noted that:

"...there are a number of issues that remain where further detail is required, and there may be need for more decisions on behalf of the regulator which could require consultation."

1.6 In paragraph 1.18, we also set out that one of our next steps would be to:

"prepare and consult on a draft IR and VNS (-4-) as the basis for licence exemption of white space devices in the UK."

1.7 We have now developed a framework for the overall operation of white space devices in the UK that is designed to ensure that we can manage the risks of harmful interference to the existing users of the UHF TV band, which are Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) and Programme making and special events (PMSE). In this document we consult on the various elements that comprise that framework, including the proposed regulatory requirements and technical specifications for white space devices that we believe are necessary to avoid harmful interference . Specifically, we present our proposals with regards to the following:

1.7.1 Operation of white space devices - These relate to the different categories of white space device, the sequence of operations that such devices will need to perform, and their interactions with each other and with qualifying databases (-5-).

1.7.2 Parameters - These relate to the parameters that will need to be exchanged between white space devices, and between white space devices and databases.

1.8 We recognise that the detailed technical specification of the wireless communication protocols between the devices, and the communications protocols between the devices and databases, is a matter for industry. For this reason, our proposals are technology neutral and apply only to those functionalities of the devices which have a bearing on managing the impact of harmful interference.

1.9 Our proposed framework for the operation of white space devices in the UK would be implemented through a package of different instruments which collectively set out the regulatory requirements and technical specifications for such devices. This proposed package of instruments includes an example of what the statutory instrument (SI) setting out the terms of the licence exemption might look like, a draft interface requirement (IR) document, and a draft voluntary national specification (VNS). These documents are published alongside this consultation.

1.10 Finally, we note that this is a consultation on device requirements. Nevertheless, some of the functionalities of qualifying white space databases are also described here, in so far as these relate to the databases interactions with the devices. The full requirements for the operation of the databases are outside the scope of this consultation and will be the subject of future engagement with stakeholders.

Next steps

1.11 This consultation, published on 22 November 2012, lasts for seven weeks. The closing date for responses is 10 January 2013.

1.12 We welcome stakeholder comments on the proposals presented in this document. We recognise the technical complexity and importance of the issues, and we will conduct a stakeholder workshop (-6-) on 3 December 2012 to allow stakeholders to express their views on the proposals we have put forward.

1.13 Following this consultation, we will amend, where appropriate, the example SI and draft IR, and VNS to take account of stakeholder responses. As soon as possible once this exercise is complete, we intend to notify the European Commission of our draft regulations and device specifications as collated in the three documents above. This process is in accordance with the European Union rules on national technical regulations. In parallel, we will also publish a statement on the outcome of the present consultation. We hope to be able to do these in the first quarter of 2013.

1.14 Following the notification (-7-) to the European Commission and expiry of the three month European standstill period, and subject to no detailed opinions being received from the European Commission or any Member State, we will be in a position to undertake the one month statutory UK consultation on the draft SI. We intend to do this once the first databases have successfully undergone Ofcoms qualification process. This will be followed by a statement on the adoption of the SI.

1.15 See Section 8 for further details of our stakeholder engagement plans with regards to other aspects relating to the authorisation of the use of white spaces in the UHF TV band.

Footnotes:

  1.- The UHF TV band extends from 470 MHz to 790 MHz.

  2.- http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/geolocation/statement/.

  3.- The use of the 600 MHz cleared spectrum (550606 MHz) by white space devices has been addressed as part of Ofcoms UHF Strategy consultation. See: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/uhf-strategy/statement/.

  4.- IR: Interface Requirement. VNS: Voluntary National Specification.

  5.- We anticipate setting out in a database contract the various qualifications which a database must meet before it can be included in Ofcoms list of qualifying white space databases. This is necessary since, as explained in this document, white space devices cannot operate in TV white spaces unless they do so in accordance with the frequency/power parameters that they must obtain from a qualifying white space database.

  6.- Please email TV.WhiteSpaces@ofcom.org.uk by 29 November 2012 if you are interested in attending the workshop.

  7.- The process for notifying the European Commission of our draft regulations and device specifications is described in more detail in Section 8 of this document.

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