Microsoft seeks more collaboration in its Spectrum Observatory project

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is seeking the assistance of academics, governments and others interested in exploring how wireless spectrum is used in the real world. To that end, the company released all of the source code for the Microsoft Spectrum Observatory under an open-source software license.

Anoop Gupta Microsoft


The move, made on March 31, was disclosed by Anoop Gupta, lead software development engineer at Microsoft's technology policy group, in an April 8 blog post.

The Microsoft Spectrum Observatory was created "to provide a more intuitive presentation of how spectrum is used in locations throughout the world," Gupta wrote.

The so-called "observatory" is comprised of a collection of sensor base stations and monitoring base stations. Data from the sites is sent to the Microsoft Azure cloud for storage and processing. Users can visit the observatory website to generate detailed reports and graphs showing spectrum usage in each location.

There are currently 11 observatory sites on three continents. The newest is located in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and is maintained by the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), with whom Microsoft partnered on a TV white space (TVWS) pilot designed to bring affordable wireless broadband access to local universities.

Other stations are located in Seattle and Redmond, Wash.; Washington, D.C.; and Cambridge, Mass., as well as Brussels, Belgium.

Microsoft hopes data from its spectrum-observation project will convince government regulators to open up more frequencies for broadband use via TVWS initiatives or other spectrum-sharing efforts. According to Gupta, the data collected can reveal "how spectrum bands are being used under the current licensing system, and which spectrum bands might be good candidates to make available for sharing in the future."

In a November 2013 interview with FierceWirelessTech, Paul Garnett, director of Microsoft's technology policy group, said most spectrum remains unused most of the time in most places.

He said uncovering large amounts of unused spectrum via the Microsoft Spectrum Observatory can help the company form policy discussions with regulators. In addition, the data collected also contributes to research advancements because it helps Microsoft see how spectrum is used in different bands by different types of radios and technologies.

According to Gupta, Microsoft will add more locations to its observatory and is looking to keep costs down while making it easier for others to participate in the project.

"We are now able to support radio frequency sensors that are significantly less expensive, bringing the total hardware cost for setting up a Spectrum Observatory station to under $5,000, with the goal of getting this amount to around $1,000," he said.

"We welcome feedback and look forward to working with more partners in government, academia and industry to increase the quantity and improve the quality of spectrum measurements, which will better inform conversations about how spectrum can be used more efficiently over time," Gupta added.

For more:                                                
- see this Microsoft blog post

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