Microsoft sets up spectrum research centre

Tech giant Microsoft has opened a European research centre aimed at providing greater insight into spectrum efficiency as a driver for wireless broadband access. The European Spectrum Observatory has been set up in Brussels, at Microsoft’s Cloud and Interoperability Centre. The firm said that it intends to examine barriers standing in the way of efficient spectrum allocation.

The Microsoft Spectrum Observatory will provide a common repository for data on spectrum usage to be collected, analysed, and presented to those interested in understanding wireless spectrum utilisation, such as national telecoms regulators, the firm said.

“Wide swathes of spectrum continue to be statically dedicated to a particular use, even if they are not fully utilised,” the company said. “If a more dynamic approach to spectrum management were adopted, spectrum utilisation could be vastly increased, thereby alleviating a key bottleneck to wireless broadband access.”

In recent years, the firm has been keen to promote innovation in spectrum usage, particularly for so called ‘white space’ spectrum. In June 2011, Microsoft led a consortium of companies to discover if unused TV spectrum could be re-allocted to create so called “super wifi hotspots”. It was joined by the BBC, Nokia, BSkyB and Samsung, which sought to discover 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 connected devices.

“TV White Spaces a represent a creative, tested and low-cost way of extending fast broadband access to people in underserved communities, addressing the rapid proliferation of machine applications and facilitating the increasing demand for bandwidth,” said William Webb, CTO at the firm’s partner Neul. “The superior range and obstacle penetration characteristics of TV white spaces spectrum coupled with the possibility of global harmonisation makes it the ideal solution for innovative new applications and technologies.”

Last week, a research centre focused on developing white space technology was also opened at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, Scotland. The centre aims to work with industry players, including Microsoft, to develop technology that will tap into the unused white space spectrum.

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