Ofcom, the UK telecoms regulator, says around 20 public and private firms will be taking part in Europe’s first big trial of ‘white space’ technology in different parts of the UK over the next six months.

The services tested will use gaps, or white spaces, that sit in the frequency band allocated for broadcast digital terrestrial TV.

As expected, Google, Microsoft and BT are among those involved, but so too is a string of smaller British companies.

Microsoft is to test free Wi-Fi access in Glasgow, which has the lowest level of broadband take-up of all UK cities.

And working with the University of Strathclyde’s Centre for White Space Communications, the software giant will also examine using white spaces to link a network of sensors around Glasgow to create a ‘smart city’.

BT and technology specialist Neul will work with the Department for Transport to test the potential enhancement of traffic information. Using white spaces to transmit data on traffic congestion and varying traffic conditions to vehicles, the idea is to improve information to drivers, reduce congestion and perhaps even improve road safety.

Click4internet, an ISP, is to test rural broadband in hard-to-reach places. Unlike other forms of wireless technologies, such as regular Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, the radio waves used by white space devices can to travel longer distances and pass more easily through solid objects.

A number of companies, including Google, Nominet, LS telcom, iconectiv, Key Bridge, Fairspectrum and Spectrum Bridge have expressed interest in testing intelligent databases that ensure white spaces can be used without causing harmful interference to other devices.

As data volumes sharply increase, thanks to the rapid growth of smartphones and tablets, Ofcom predicts an 80-fold increase in mobile data use by 2030.

White space technology is viewed by the UK telecoms regulator as an important ally in the fight against a future spectrum crunch.