Microsoft leads consortium on using TV ‘white spaces’ for Wi-Fi

A consortium of companies led by Microsoft and including the BBC, Nokia, BSkyB and Samsung, has begun a test program in Cambridge, England to discover if un-required TV spectrum could be reused to create so called “super Wi-Fi hotspots.” These would provide internet coverage to provide offload for areas where there is too much data traffic, or for those where there is no broadband at all.

Unused TV white spaces could be reused for 'super Wi-Fi hotspots'

The project is designed to see if it is possible to re-use spectrum in the 470Mhz to 790MHz range without affecting TV broadcasts, in order to feed the ever increasing demand for bandwidth from devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops. UK regulator Ofcom has given permission for the project to go ahead.

The technique is known as dynamic spectrum sharing and has been described by Professor William Webb, CTO of project-backer Neul, as allowing, “access to spectrum that is owned by others without forcing them to give it back.”

Microsoft’s Dan Reed told the Financial Times that “Spectrum is a finite natural resource. We can’t make more and we must use it efficiently and wisely.”

Reed, corporate vice president for technology policy at Microsoft said in a blog post said that spectrum congestion was “an issue that goes well beyond dropped cell phone calls, and can’t be solved solely by adding fibre optic networks and cell sites”.

Neul, one of the companies involved in the project is also looking at using white space spectrum for M2M services worldwide, but there are some who are not convinced it will be successful in getting the technology off the ground.

Bengt Nordstrom, founder of industry consultancy Northstream recently told that “It’s highly unlikely that a start-up company will have its technology approved as a standard for white space usage, and this will ultimately prevent it from building any real volume and momentum with operators. The road to recognised and approved radio access technology standards is paved with interesting but unsuccessful start-up company initiatives”.

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