How wireless technology is helping to drive innovation in business

22 March 2019

Ofcom has published a report, outlining how wireless technology can help businesses to develop new, innovative services and make existing processes more efficient.

Wireless technology can help businesses to increase productivity, lower costs and improve the quality of their services, and Ofcom has a role to support this.

Digital technologies are transforming a range of industries

Businesses are constantly innovating, as they strive to become more productive, reduce costs and improve their services. Research has shown 94% of businesses believe digital technologies are crucial to increasing their productivity.

Industries such as utilities, agriculture, logistics and transport are all benefiting from wireless technology. It is helping to change the way businesses in these industries deliver their services, while customers can benefit by using smartphones and apps.

These technologies help businesses in different sectors to deal with their own specific challenges. For example, some might operate multiple robots within a factory plant to improve processes and increase productivity.

Others, such as energy companies, might use sensors to collect data across the electricity grid to manage their operations more effectively, while manufacturers can automate their production lines and agricultural firms can monitor crops remotely.

A range of wireless technologies are already in use across lots of sectors, but the needs of some businesses now go further than existing technology. With many businesses looking to become more efficient and flexible, they are looking to developments in 4G, 5G and wifi to help them improve.

What is spectrum?

Spectrum is the invisible infrastructure that supports all devices needing to communicate without wires – such as televisions, car key fobs, baby monitors, wireless microphones and satellites. Mobile phones use spectrum to connect to a local mast so people can make calls and access the internet.

Only a limited amount of spectrum is available, so it needs to be managed carefully. Certain bands of spectrum are also used for different purposes.

The airwaves we’re making available are often referred to as ‘millimetre wave’ spectrum. They involve radio waves operating at extremely high frequencies. Frequencies in this spectrum range are currently used for a number of different services, including helping to provide wireless internet services.

What difference is 5G expected to make?

infographic about what difference will 5G make?

How Ofcom is supporting digital transformation

Ofcom manages access to radio spectrum, the invisible infrastructure that supports all devices needing to communicate without wires – such as televisions, car key fobs, baby monitors, wireless microphones and satellites.

One of our roles is to ensure spectrum can be used for wireless connections in the future. We already support access to spectrum for a wide range of organisations to enable wireless connectivity.

We want to make sure different spectrum bands can be accessed by a wide range of organisations, and we also offer special licences that allow organisations to test a range of new applications and business models. In addition, we sometimes make spectrum available for some uses without the need for a licence.

We work with organisations from the UK and internationally to understand the needs of organisations across different sectors, and how wireless technology could help them.

To continue the conversation started in our report and hear from organisations interested in wireless connectivity, we’re holding a series of events on supporting wireless innovation in UK industries. Businesses and organisations of all sizes across all sectors are welcome to attend, regardless of what stage they are at in thinking about wireless technology. If you are interested or want to know more, you can reach us at industrial.innovation@ofcom.org.uk. The next event is due to be held in Cardiff in July 2019 - further details to be announced soon.