Feeds

Ofcom tailgates Google with radio usage map

Sussing out the spectrum

The essential guide to IT transformation

Ofcom is responsible for managing radio spectrum in the UK, but it's hard to do that when you don't know who's doing what and where. So by the end of 2008 a fleet of vehicles touring the country will finish doing for radio spectrum what Google is doing for street views.

Ofcom already monitors radio usage, with around 40 analysers based in city centres, but these only monitor spectrum below 1GHz and are obviously limited in coverage. Beyond that, Ofcom is still reliant on members of the public noticing and complaining about unlicensed spectrum usage.

Complaining about pirate radio is just a matter of letting Ofcom know - if it's in the FM band the watchdog will respond with raids and prosecutions. Ofcom even has a new leaflet (pdf) out today, warning that pirate radio operators may even carry knives, when they're not dealing drugs or assaulting one other.

But once you get into the higher frequencies you'll need to complain loudly about "spectrum abuse". If you're lucky, Ofcom will send out someone to analyse the interference and may even send a letter to the person responsible.

A good example of this is the raft of problems caused by home data-over-powerline devices, which generate all sorts of interference to such an extent that a support group exists for those affected, complete with a video to help people identify the problem.

Finding out if there's a problem isn't easy - interference is more likely to be blamed on faulty transmitters or receivers. And while Ofcom knows who should be allowed to broadcast at what frequency and where, no one knows how many people are using spectrum illegally - knowingly or otherwise.

According to PolicyTracker, Ofcom was working with QinetiQ to develop a nationwide monitoring system, but spiralling costs made the project unfeasible. So now the regulator has turned to a company called Cambridge Radio Frequency Services (CRFS), which has kit that can be vehicle-mounted to build up a picture of national radio usage.

Rather than creating a fleet of vehicles Ofcom has done a deal with a company to fit the CRFS kit (picture) into roof racks on the cars driven by their sales staff (30 of them), and expects to have most of the country covered by the end of the year.

Quite what they'll find we don't know - whether unplanned interference of the kind generated by home electronics is a widespread problem, or perhaps everyone is playing nicely and spectrum is already being used to the greatest possible efficiency. But if the process works and Ofcom chooses to share the data then you might be able to see more than just blurred faces on the next generation of Street View. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
Shoot-em-up: Sony Online Entertainment hit by 'large scale DDoS attack'
Games disrupted as firm struggles to control network
BT customers face broadband and landline price hikes
Poor punters won't be affected, telecoms giant claims
Netflix swallows yet another bitter pill, inks peering deal with TWC
Net neutrality crusader once again pays up for priority access
EE: STILL Blighty's best mobe network, says 'Frappucino' Moore
Fresh round of network stats fisticuffs possibly on the cards here
US TV stations bowl sueball directly at FCC's spectrum mega-sale
Broadcasters upset about coverage and cost as they shift up and down the dials
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?