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Microsoft partners with D-Link to deliver speedier Wi-Fi in rural regions

Microsoft has joined forces with networking equipment maker D-Link to deliver faster Wi-Fi to rural communities around the world.
Written by Tas Bindi, Contributor

Microsoft is partnering with networking equipment manufacturer D-Link to deliver speedier Wi-Fi to rural communities around the world, D-Link chairman John Hsuan announced in Taipei on Monday.

Dubbed "Super Wi-Fi", the wireless infrastructure is set to be based on the 802.11af protocol, and will take advantage of unused bandwidth in the lower-frequency white spaces between television channel frequencies where signals travel further than at higher frequencies.

A pilot of the first phase is commencing in an unnamed American state, with trials also slated to run in three other countries.

"D-Link sees ourselves at the very heart of this kind of technical innovation and development. We also acknowledge that we have a role to play in helping all countries and future generations better connect," said Sydney-based D-Link managing director for ANZ Graeme Reardon.

"Our goal is to use all of our 30 years' experience and expertise and our global footprint to help deliver Super Wi-Fi as a technological platform for growth to the world's underdeveloped regions."

This is not the first time Microsoft has used white spaces to take advantage of local mesh networks with low-cost radios; in 2015, Microsoft used white spaces radio to help with disaster recovery in the Philippines.

In the same year, students at a remote Ghanaian college became the first people in Africa able to buy internet connectivity delivered using Microsoft-backed TV white spaces, after the Ghanaian regulator granted the first licence to operate a commercial white spaces network on the continent.

Earlier this year, Microsoft's plan to connect 1 billion people in India using white spaces ran into trouble, however. Microsoft had requested that the Indian government allot unused spectrum so that it could provide last-mile connectivity in the remote regions of the country, but the government rejected the plea upon pressure from local telecommunications firms, which demanded unused spectrum to not be given for free to any organisation.

A few months later, the Indian government decided to conduct experiments using TV white space technology, allotting 127MHz of spectrum to eight local organisations.

Microsoft is not the only company looking at ways to expand internet availability, with Google's Project Loon taking a different approach by releasing balloons that act as extenders for broadband penetration. In February, Google started testing its air-balloon beamed internet service in Sri Lanka, after striking a deal for spectrum with the government.

Sky and Space Global earlier this year also announced plans to provide mobile coverage for remote regions globally by launching 200 nano-satellites into space off the back of Virgin Galactic's LauncherOne vehicle.

Australian Securities Exchange-listed Sky and Space aims to build a wholesale narrowband low-cost voice and data network through the provision of satellite services that it will sell to telecommunications providers throughout equatorial Asia, South America, Central America, and Africa, as well as to shipping companies and airliners operating in those areas.

Remote coverage in Australia is also being expanded by the federal government's mobile blackspot program. The first round of funding was opened in December 2014, with Telstra and Vodafone Australia securing AU$185 million in government funding to build or upgrade 499 mobile towers across Australia.

The Australian government then announced the second round of the program in early December last year, providing a further AU$60 million to those participating, and the Coalition in May pledged to spend an additional AU$60 million to fund a third round of the mobile blackspot program to build or upgrade a further 900 mobile towers.

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