Policing the RF spectrum

Ofcom has awarded a QinetiQ-led consortium a contract to deliver an operational automatic radio interference monitoring demonstration system.


Ofcom, through a UK Treasury funded Spectrum Efficiency Scheme (SES) research and development programme, has awarded a QinetiQ-led consortium a £500,000 contract to deliver an operational automatic radio interference monitoring demonstration system.



Once fully developed and deployed, this new system will enable Ofcom to efficiently pinpoint sources of interfering radio signals anywhere within the UK and to take appropriate actions to better manage and prevent misuse of the spectrum.



Ofcom regularly receives complaints about deliberate abuse of the available spectrum, but there are also a large number of companies and individuals that innocently cause varying degrees of RF interference. Pirate radio stations are an obvious example of deliberate hi jacking of the airwaves, but interference can equally be caused by poorly installed wireless LANS, older CB equipment and amateur radio, through to localised sources like mini-cabs or badly suppressed electrical equipment.



Each of these can adversely affect critical systems for hospitals and airports, as well as domestic TV and radio reception, cellular telephones and data communications systems.



Rhod Scott Wilson of QinetiQ’s Spectrum Solutions added: “With our partners TRL Technology and Arup Communications, we will submit a technology demonstrator plus the recommendations from our comprehensive requirement study towards the end of 2005. At that point Ofcom will approve the overall requirement and equipment specification. The approved design will then be commercialised and rolled out across the UK to provide the national network.”



Part of the first phase of the study is to formulate the design and technical requirements. Initial thinking is for a network of interconnected, rugged PC-sized, static passive systems that can be deployed across the country to provide comprehensive 24/7 spectrum monitoring and enforcement capabilities.



The sensitivity of the system and therefore the required geographical spacing of the units has still to be finalised, as has the communications system, which could be fast data transfer on demand, over a mobile network.