British broadcasters and high tech companies are partnering in an effort to develop a “super WiFi” using the “white space” between television channels which will support bandwidth hungry mobile internet devices like smartphones and tablet computers, according to the group formed by the companies.
The “Cambridge TV White Spaces Consortium” is comprised of Microsoft, the BBC, BSkyB and British Telecom, which are sponsoring a trial of how the gaps in frequencies between TV broadcasts—called “white space”—can be used to transmit broadband. The white space are the unused frequencies in the TV spectrum between 470MHz and 790MHz which are left empty to avoid broadcasts leaking into one and other.
The consortium says, “With the number of connected devices and data applications growing rapidly, and with mobile networks feeling the strain, we must find ways of satisfying the traffic demands of today and tomorrow.” As a result, in June the consortium began trials on use of the white spaces to show that the new services do not interfere with British TV signals.
The Financial Times reports that Microsoft executive Dan Reed said the radio spectrum is a finite naturally resource that must be used efficiently and wisely managed. “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 WiFi networks,” he said. “This trial will attempt to demonstrate that unused TV spectrum is well-placed to increase the UK’s available mobile bandwidth, which is critical to effectively responding to the exponential growth in data-intensive services, while also enabling future innovation.”
With wavelengths much lower than regular WiFi, those frequencies are able to travel further and penetrate much more deeply into buildings, raising the possibility of regional broadband networks available to thousands of users.
If successful, developers hope the technology will help provide basic broadband infrastructures for rural areas, where it would be uneconomical to lay extensive fibre-optic cabling. In addition, they also hope that additional radio spectrum can be made available for mobile broadband networks, which are straining because of high bandwidth mobile broadband devices.