Home & Office

Microsoft, Google join TV white-space broadband road test

The UK has launched a TV white space pilot in which it will test devices and databases that manage access to unused spectrum.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Microsoft, BT and others are joining a European pilot of 'white space' broadband, which makes use of gaps in the spectrum used for digital TV and could help tackle constraints on spectrum availability.

Around 20 organisations will join the pilot in different roles over the coming months to test how it can be put to work for urban wi-fi, rural broadband and low-data traffic management systems, the UK’s communications regulator OfCom announced on Wednesday.

The trials will investigate the potential for white spaces to meet the surge in demand for wireless capacity expected as the 'internet of things' gathers pace. 

Microsoft's involvement will test the viability of white space spectrum with free wi-fi in Glasgow, in partnership with the University of Strathclyde's Centre for White Space Communications.

It's also examining white spaces in a 'smart city' trial in Glasgow, employing a network of sensors to collect data on things like air temperature and humidity that will be fed into a publicly accessible live map.

According to Microsoft, which has been gunning for greater use of white space spectrum across the world, more than 50 to 70 percent of spectrum in the TV band alone goes unused. In the US, the FCC approved unlicensed access to white space spectrum in 2010.

Meanwhile, BT and Cambridge white space startup Neul will use white spaces to transmit data on traffic congestion, while Local ISP Click4Internet will test its potential for rural broadband.

Google, Nominet and several others have registered interest in participating as database providers, which play a central role in regulating access to white space frequencies. The FCC earlier this year cleared Google's database that tracks available TV white space that wireless broadband devices can check against to make use of that capacity.  

The UK pilot follows OfCom's publication earlier this month of a new public consultation on the use of white spaces, which closes on 15 November. Similarly, OfCom will be using the pilot to test which databases it will include in its list of qualified resources that wireless devices would interrogate to use.

Microsoft, Nokia, Nuel, BT, and the BBC were among 10 organisations behind a TV white space consortium established in 2011 in Cambridge, shortly after OfCom launched a consultation to see how 'white space' technology might be rolled out in the UK.

More on broadband

Editorial standards