Microsoft leads industry heavyweights in UK white space trial

A consortium of leading IT, media and  vendors plan to launch a trial of mobile broadband services in the UK white space frequency bands. The companies involved in the group, formally called the Cambridge TV White Spaces Consortium, include the BBC, BSkyB, BT, Microsoft, Nokia and Samsung.

The aim of the trial, which will start this week in Cambridge, is to demonstrate to TV broadcasters and the telecoms regulator, Ofcom, that white space-based services will not interfere with digital TV transmissions. The first tests are likely to focus on machine-to-machine communications, followed by rural broadband and mobile broadband use.

The white space frequencies, 470MHz-790MHz, are seen as being of particular value given their strong in-building penetration and wide-area coverage capability beyond Wi-Fi and LTE. As a result, many in the industry argue white space spectrum has the potential to create "super Wi-Fi" networks in cities, as well rural broadband services.

Commenting on the test plans to the Financial Times, Dan Reed, a Microsoft coporate vice president responsible for its technology strategy, said: "Spectrum is a finite natural resource. We can't make more and we must use it efficiently and wisely. The TV white spaces offer tremendous potential to extend the benefits of wireless connectivity to many more people, in more locations, through the creation of super Wi-Fi networks."

A statement from the group added: "This trial will attempt to demonstrate that unused TV spectrum is well-placed to increase the UK's available mobile bandwidth, which is critical to effectively responding to the exponential growth in data-intensive services, while also enabling future innovation."

Microsoft, a key player in the trial and a strong backer of using white space spectrum for mobile broadband, has already built an experimental mobile broadband network at its US headquarters using spectrum in the frequency bands assigned for digital TV broadcasts. The company has also held talks with Japanese and Singapore regulators about similar spectrum use, and hopes that the UK trial will convince other European countries to follow a similar course.

Other companies in the consortium are Cambridge Consultants, Neul, Spectrum Bridge and TTP.

For more:
- see this Financial Times article
- see this Daily Telegraph article
- see this Consortium press release

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