London, 24 October 2005
This report provides an overview of the technology research and development programme at Ofcom. It presents key findings and outlines the conclusions and implications that Ofcom has drawn from this work.
Ofcom intends to publish an overview of technology research and development on an annual basis to inform stakeholders of findings and to solicit feedback on both the results and the direction of the programme.
Ofcom regulates a sector where technology developments are key to delivering new applications and services to the consumer. Technology development can be both facilitated and hampered by regulatory policy. Ofcom must therefore take a forward view to understand the benefits and impact that emerging technologies may bring and inform appropriate regulatory action. It is one of Ofcom's statutory duties to encourage the most efficient use of the radio spectrum, so the research effort aims to investigate the technologies which can help to achieve this.
Most visions of the future foresee dramatic increases in the amount of information sent wirelessly. However, the areas of the radio spectrum that can be used for this kind of transmission expand slowly. Only by making better use of the radio spectrum can the visions be achieved. For example, broadcasting content to mobiles may require greater spectrum efficiency; in the future this could be provided by Mesh networks or using adaptive antenna technology. By understanding potential future developments, Ofcom can determine how technologies and services might develop and shape regulation policy accordingly. Hence the technology R&D programme is focused around understanding and furthering the fundamental building blocks for a whole raft of new technologies and services.
Ofcom's technical research programme is divided into three strands:
* Understanding and furthering emerging technologies, such as Software Defined Radio and Smart Antennas. This will allow Ofcom to develop an appropriate regulatory environment to enable future developments.
* Understanding the state and use of the spectrum, by monitoring its quality and usage. This will allow Ofcom to look at ways of enhancing efficiency and ensure that spectrum is not becoming progressively polluted by interference.
* Enhancing spectrum efficiency, for example looking at options for improving the use of spectrum by existing radar systems. This will help to ensure there is sufficient spectrum to allow for the envisaged growth in usage.
While Ofcom is the regulator for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services, this research programme is deliberately biased towards radio spectrum. This is because spectrum underpins the operation of broadcasting, fixed and wireless telecommunications systems.