Last year, we reported on Ofcom’s Statement on ‘Promoting investment and innovation in the Internet of Things (IoT)’ (Statement). IoT refers to the exponentially growing network of products that are capable of communicating with each other, such as smart watches and smart thermostats. The Statement identified four priority areas to support the growth of IoT (data privacy, network security and resilience, spectrum availability, and network addresses) and sought stakeholders’ views on the actions required to achieve that goal. In a separate consultation, Ofcom invited views on the suitability of specific spectrum frequencies for ‘machine-to-machine’ (M2M)/IoT applications.

Ofcom has now published its statement on one of the abovementioned priorities – spectrum availability. The new Statement (entitled ‘Statement on VHF radio spectrum for the Internet of Things’) confirms the availability of spectrum in certain ranges (55-68MHz, 70.5-71.5MHz and 80-81.5MHz) for IoT services and M2M applications.

The spectrum is available immediately: Ofcom considers that its existing VHF spectrum is suitable for IoT/M2M applications and that use of the spectrum for such applications should not adversely impact existing users.

Ofcom considers that its existing Business Radio (BR) licence products are suitable for M2M/IoT applications. This means that current BR licence holders are free to continue their operations uninterrupted. Having said that, Ofcom intends to launch a new licence product with specific provision for IoT/M2M.

Concerns remain, however, about how to ensure adequate protection for the personal data of smart object users. In its Statement, Ofcom acknowledged that privacy was the ‘greatest single barrier to the development of IoT’. There can be little doubt that such privacy concerns will need to be satisfactorily addressed in order to foster consumer trust in sharing their personal data via IoT.