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Microsoft to trial Wi-Fi over free TV spectrum

Tech giant joins BT, Sky and BBC in trial

Microsoft has joined forces with the BBC, Sky and BT to discover whether the spectrums used for digital TV broadcasts can be utilised for Wi-Fi networks.

Not all of the 470 MHz to 790 MHz spectrum will be used for digital TV transmissions and it is hoped the unused frequencies, which are known as 'white space' can be utilised to provide Wi-Fi networks in areas where existing networks are overcrowded or in locations that currently don't have any form of broadband access, such as rural areas.

The firms, which also includes phone manufacturers Nokia and Samsung, are planning to trial the technology in Cambridge.

"Spectrum is a finite natural resource. We can't make more and we must use it efficiently and wisely," Dan Reed from Microsoft told the Financial Times.

"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."

The trial will commence on Wednesday June 29.

However, Stephen Rayment, chief technology officer, at Bel Air Networks said that while many see white space spectrum as a solution to coverage problems associated with wireless broadband, mobile operators should also think about how they can address capacity issues.

"The vast surges in data consumption are wreaking havoc across 3G networks, particularly in areas of high user concentration," he said.

Rayment said operators are looking at Wi-Fi as a solution for offloading data traffic to alleviate congestion and herein lies the true potential of white spaces for operators.

"Firstly, it can be used to augment licensed spectrum and deliver 1.5 times the capacity of 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi in the UK. In addition, the broad reach brought by the 700 MHz band spectrum allocation of white space can be used to extend this vast capacity into office buildings where operators continue to experience coverage problems," he said.

"White space's membership to the Wi-Fi family of standards means it will be supported by a plethora of supporting devices and economies of scale that drive chip prices down."

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