back to article Ofcom tailgates Google with radio usage map

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 …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    The real problem

    Wardriving for the bad guys.

    Isn't it time to get rid of OFCOM? Pirate radio broadcasters may carry knives, but at least they don't steal half the TV spectrum to flog off the back of a lorry - then tell everyone they will need to buy new Freeview boxes to watch HD because of it.

    They have never been on the side of the public; they are institutionally inept and they impede development of new services.

    I'll bet the WiFi frequencies are better and more effectively used than any other OFCOM controlled band. Stop trying to own the air we breath and GET OUT OF THE WAY.

  2. Stuart Harrison
    Thumb Down

    Knives, guns, drug dealing...

    OFCOM using pathetic scare tactics to get the public on their side again I see. Yes, there are pirates out there that are involved in slightly underhand activities, but for every dodgy pirate station there are dozens more that act responsibly and provide a service to listeners who aren't catered for by the rampant commercialism of the major stations.

    The FM band needs to be liberalised so you don't need a six figure bank balance to get a licence, especially with the advent of digital and online radio...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £250 quid in fines, £126 MILLION in costs

    I reckon that there's a round of budget cuts coming, and Ofcom doesn't want to be one of the departments getting the axe. But look at Case Study 2, the fine for illegal broadcasting was 250 quid, I bet Ofcom spent 30-100k just pursuing that case, they're chasing the most minor and rare type of offence here.

    Ofcom's budget was £126 million a year.

    Look at Case study 1 and 2 from 2005 and 2006, they had to go back 3 years to get their examples of this crime. Each one is a petty crime. They have a budget of £126 million for this.

    More money has been spent on that leaflet warning about illegal broadcasters than is received in fines from illegal broadcasters....

    Then there's the interference problem, now we're all digital and the Fireservice can use the mobile phone band as a backup, there's just not such a big problem there any more. Indeed it makes sense that we drop the custom bands for the emergency services and simply give the fireservice a way to ensure capacity on the phone network. Then free up those bands for other things.

    What are they using now? Still using analogue transmitters? Surely not.

  4. Bob H


    I do hope they share this data in a nice way, it would be wonderful to see spectrographic images of the UK.

    Mines the one with the big antenna...

  5. n

    danger ahead

    The reason for maps is to prove ownership.

    If you can map it, you can sell it off.

    Eventually, any members of the public freely using spectrum, such as CB radio peeps, or anyone planning a free open source peer to peer wireless mesh infrastructure will be sent a copy of said map and be told to consider the spectrum availability of the afterlife.

  6. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Fireservice can use the mobile phone band?

    Come on! Any major emergency and the standard phone system falls to its knees with folk trying to call to find out what has happened / going to be late for tea / etc.

    That is one major point for having the separate TETRA system, other is better building penetration at the moderately lower frequency.

    Paris cause...oh bugger, back to the serious point...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "The FM band needs to be liberalised so you don't need a six figure bank balance to get a licence, especially with the advent of digital and online radio..."

    Surely if it was "liberalised" then it would be those with the biggest bank balance who would be running the highest powers in city centres squeezing out everyone else. Also likely to be criminals connections to many of these liberalised stations.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I presume the (professional?) photographer who took the picture of the antenna is ex-Channel 4 from the way he is incapable of holding his camera level.

  9. John Robson Silver badge

    Fire service radios

    I really hope they keep analogue radios on dedicated frequencies for a while yet - there's no way I want them not being able to talk to each other.

    Analogue systems are much better able to deal with marginal reception, and provide an essential backup comms link. It is a well understood and mature technology - not something that can be said about the equivalent digital systems.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A nation of regulators.

    So how much is spent by enforcement in the UK?

    I'm curious what % of the annual budget does it add up to. I reckon you're one of the most over policed countries, more petty regulators, more council community officers than elsewhere. So many 'health and safety' inspectors it makes you sick. Here's Ofcom spending hundreds of millions preventing hundred of quids worth of CB radio style transmissions. There's the proposal to add Internet monitoring and regulation to that.

    How does it stack up if you add all these enforcement agencies up?

    No longer a nation of shopkeepers I reckon, a nation of regulators perhaps?

  11. Chris Richards

    quite right too...

    >They have never been on the side of the public; they are institutionally inept and they impede development of new services.

    Never a truer word spoken about the public.

  12. John Boyer


    Ermm aren't Ofcom missing half the story. Those log-periodic aerials are horizontally polarised. I'll just run my pirate station vertically polarised. :-) Maybe if they were more than half competent they'd add a discone to catch VP signals as well.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Fireservice can use the mobile phone band?

    Why not? Fireservice gets the call from a member of the public on their MOBILE PHONE 'there's a fire here', they need more staff, so they grab their phone and call the firemen at home on their MOBILE PHONES... 'come quick we need more firemen'....

    I bet they use mobile phones now, since it would be next to impossible for them to get their own transmission towers in as many places the mobile phone networks, I bet they all have a mobile phone with them for backup when they lose coverage.

  14. Wize

    Re: Picture

    "I presume the (professional?) photographer who took the picture of the antenna is ex-Channel 4 from the way he is incapable of holding his camera level."

    Maybe it was level and the room was wonky. The guy on the right looks like he is holding on.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Picture

    ""I presume the (professional?) photographer who took the picture of the antenna is ex-Channel 4 from the way he is incapable of holding his camera level."

    Maybe it was level and the room was wonky. The guy on the right looks like he is holding on."

    I'm think they're just using that angle to hide the receding hairlines of the subjects.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Stupid over-egged scare tactics.

    >"pirate radio operators may even carry knives, when they're not dealing drugs or assaulting one other"

    Yes, but Ofcom forgot to mention that they're also all terrorists and pedophiles. Oh, and they drink milk straight from the carton, leave the toilet seat up, don't return their library books on time. And they smell. Of poo. And they probably said rude things about you when your back was turned. And they made rabbit ears behind your head when you were getting your school photograph taken. And...

    Do this bunch of twunts really think that if you just randomly accuse somebody of whatever-the-current-scare-du-jour is it'll somehow convince us all that whatever they say or do is justified? They must think we're as stupid as we think they are!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    well, in the last emergency TETRA didn't work, GSM didn't work and analogue V/UHF FM didn't work - runners were used for both the ambulance service AND London Fire Brigade. That's brave FEET and papyrus as in Ancient Greece!

    3G was however up and perfect and empty as the jPhone wasn't around then!

    ***A better system than a fixed waveform is the flexible cognitive reconfigurable radio system. just uses whatever frequency/mode is available***

    the last time I was personally 'busted" was when my wife phoned to say that there was a detector van in the street with the antenna pointed at my house, I drove home to have a nice chat with the guy who'd spent 3 months tracking me down. It seems my dwelling was accidentally leaking RF on 180something megs , at a few milliwatts. Luckily I'd told the wife which bits to switch off, and when we rechecked using their (almost) useless Marconi 0-2GHz speccy, lo' there wasn't anything. The guy didn't even want to come in, he attributed the signal to a leaky TV masthead amplifier, and suggested replacement. Now I'm using 802.11n for data streaming and not the homebrew stuff! I later poached & employed the RF technician as he was fed-up driving the van around for the last 7 years, I reckoned he was good enough to find me!

  18. Wayland Sothcott

    Will they share the spectrum map

    When Ofcom scan the UK on our behalf then they should make the data available. I can understand that commercial companies may have this data and can't be expected to share it. However if Ofcom are doing it on our behalf I think it's wrong for them to sell it commerially.

    Why do I think they will do this? Well I was working with the Ministry of Agreculture, Food and Fisheries at one time. They were publishing a CD-ROM with data about crop storage and I was helping with putting it onto CD. They said they would have to charge £15 per CD to cover costs. I said why not put it up as a website then it costs people nothing and probably cost you only a few quid per month.

    They rejected that because they were trying to make money. No one bought their CD so they made no money. And no one saw the data which had cost quite a lot to compile. A little bit more money spent could have put the data to good use for the people of the UK.

    These government agencies forget who they work for.

    By the way, Radio pirates say they have guns. The police won't help them protect their business so they have to do so themselves. On the whole they use the spectrum sensibly but there will always be people who deliberately interfere with others radio signals.

  19. Jason Crowley

    Time for Ofcom to go

    "They have never been on the side of the public; they are institutionally inept and they impede development of new services." couldnt agree more!

    £126 million for a regulator that enforces sweet FA, they will spend money on the survey, spend money talking about it, spend money woking out how to sell it off, and then do nothing else with it and blame another regulator / department.

    Please can we have a new communications regulator, pretty please.

  20. rhydian


    I'd much rather have the fire service/police on a combination of both a dedicated radio system such as TETRA and mobile phone. What you forget is that out in rural areas mobile phone coverage is patchy at best, and there are TETRA masts going up in areas not covered by any mobile network

  21. Kwac

    @Fireservice can use the mobile phone band?

    Only if mobile phones work and the band is not being fully utilised.

    A fire at a building with the local mast could well put it out of action, the '7/7' bombings caused the phone system to fall over due to volume of calls.

  22. Mike

    OFCOM not worth 126M?

    What some people are forgetting is that OFCOM doesn't just deal with radio, but also with the telephone networks. This is a lot more labour intensive and I would guess that it takes a far larger percentage of their budget than the radio allocation and enforcement stuff...

    Skull and Crossbones since there is a pirate angle.

  23. Henry Wertz Gold badge


    I like the situation here in the states better... it was found like 20 years ago that the FCC doesn't actually have any enforcement powers. So, they can confiscate your radio gear, but the sole consequence of not paying any fines they levy (for instance, fines for not having an FCC license) is... you might not be able to get an FCC license.

  24. Jason Crowley

    not for 126m Mike

    126 million gets us a lobbist for the telecomms industry, paid for by us.We also get excessive TV regulation, far more than is wanted. The government generates income in selling of parts of the spectrum but we pay in the end.

    The consumer just gets a raw deal.

    For 126 million a year maybe someone could define "unlimited", enforce the code of practice they insisted upon in 2005? make them honour contract?

    The other regulators manage it on far less of a budget.

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