Microsoft and Google -as well as Dell, HP, Phillips and Intel- have expressed an interest in using ‘white spaces’ in their devices in order to provide their users with the convenience of widespread broadband access. The white-space spectrum used by Microsoft is between 512-698 megahertz, offering a longer range than the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks we use currently, thus allowing people in rural areas to have better signal.
The rumour is that Microsoft is planning to offer free WIFI as a value-added feature on Nokia’s handsets, with Senior government sources telling The Sunday Telegraph that Microsoft and Google have expressed “extreme interest” in unused sections of airwaves known as white spaces
The two companies are rumored to looking to offer nation-wide WIFI to their smartphone users in UK using White Spaces spectrum.
To clarify, white spaces are gaps between airwaves used for television, radio and mobile services, which are also used to prevent interference between mobile and broadcasting signals. Furthermore, using white spaces in this way is known to be a ‘highly efficient use of a very limited resource’, according to telecoms regulator Ofcom.
Back in 2009, Microsoft received an experimental licence from the FCC to build a prototype ‘White-Fi’ system on the Microsoft Research Campus in Redmond, Washington. Since then, they have worked with researchers at Harvard University and developed a set of protocols for wireless Internet networks that use white spaces. However, the main flaw of the spectrum is it can interfere with TV signals as well as wireless microphones becoming active without warning as it operates in the same spectrum. Unfortunately, this meant that the Federal Communications Commission couldn’t permit Microsoft to use white spaces.
But Microsoft didn’t stop there. In response to this, Microsoft created an ‘adaptive spectrum assignment algorithm’, in which devices measure the spectrum around them and work with other gadgets to find available frequencies –in the same way laptops search for and identify WiFi networks-. This means that when there is an interference, the devices move to a different channel with a different frequency range. When Microsoft experimented with this, their devices would switch to the backup channel within 3 seconds of an interference.
“Imagine the potential if you could connect to your home [Internet] router from up to a mile,” – Ranveer Chandra, Microsoft Researcher
Hopefully these two long time rivals can work together to make that dream a reality.