Smartphone users will soon enjoy even greater levels of connectivity on their handsets, as Ofcom has unveiled the details of a new wireless innovation trial that will help the UK meet the rising demands on its wireless infrastructure.

This will utilise so-called ‘white space’ technology, which will examine the way that ‘white spaces’ – the gaps in the frequency bands used to broadcast digital terrestrial television – could be opened up for access when they are not in use. This will increase the UK’s ‘spectrum’, a finite resource that is used to support wireless technology.

Currently, one quarter of all households contains a tablet computer, while around half of all adults own a smartphone. However, the future won’t just see Apple and Android devices connected to the UK’s spectrum – so called ‘machine to machine’ communications are set to take off rapidly in the years to come, with 50 billion devices predicted to be connecting to the internet with Wi-Fi technology by 2020. These will include coffee machines, cars, cardiac monitors, and a huge range of other devices for sectors including the media, healthcare, energy, agriculture, and transport.

Ofcom’s pilot will begin later in 2013 and continue into 2014. If the pilot is successful, Ofcom expects that white space technology will be rolled out across the UK in the second half of 2014.

The pilot will see Microsoft providing free public Wi-Fi access in Glasgow, the Department for Transport and Neul2 using white spaces to monitor traffic and display congestion information on the A14, Click4internet using them to improve internet accessibility in rural areas with challenging topography, and a number of other companies testing intelligent databases to look into how white spaces can be used without disturbing other devices.

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