The UK is continuing to look at how it can rearrange its use of spectrum to ensure it can maximize return from it in the future. But experts are not stopping at switching all television signals to digital and have now turned their attentions to air traffic control systems in a bid to free up spectrum space.
Indeed, researchers at radar provider Thales have been looking into a new system that would see television signals used to locate where aircraft are in the sky, replacing the current set-up that has been in place since the Second World War. BBC News reports that each television transmitter will send the same signal, but the presence of aircraft will mean it happens at different times. From this, experts will be able to detect where planes are in the sky.
It comes as the country casts its eye ahead to new mobile phone technology in the next few years. Even though the vast majority of the UK is still without access to 4G signals, the government is already looking at the introduction of 5G services towards the end of the decade. Changing the current air radar set-up will help free up spectrum space for this new technology.
But there are safety issues as well, according to reports. Research has shown that wind turbines, because of their spinning blades, have been causing issues with the current system and causing interference. With wind energy expansion set to continue over the next few years, a new system is required.
That doesn't mean everyone is impressed with the proposals, though, especially from within the air traffic industry. John Smith, head of Air Traffic Management strategy at Thales, told the news provider that much more persuading needs to be done before the use of television signals is an accepted method.
"There are an awful lot of barriers to gaining acceptance in the market place," he explained. "In the air traffic control industry there is a belief that things have always been done a certain way and so there is reluctance to move to something that is radically different. We have to prove, first and foremost, that it is safe."
With a two-year project now underway at Thales, funded by the government's Technology Strategy Board, the current method of tracking planes looks set to be coming to an end. But is this the best and safest method to introduce across the UK?