Ofcom's (White) Space is home for Microsoft, Google, and others' projects

A new trial in the UK is to be launched by regulator Ofcom; with notable participation by technology giants Google and Microsoft. The aim is to utilise “White Space” (unused spectrum) for testing mobile broadband and sensors to monitor cities and traffic... and for offering free WiFi.

In total, around 20 organisations will be taking part in the trial – each with various goals.

For example, BT and white space technology start up Neul will work with the Department for Transport to test the potential enhancement of traffic information. Microsoft on the other hand will be providing people with access to free WiFi in Glasgow, which has the lowest level of broadband take-up of all UK cities.

What’s interesting about this revelation is both Google and Microsoft recently joined the A4AI (Alliance for affordable internet) – which is surely more than a coincidence?

Under the ‘Vision’ section of the alliance’s website, it reads: “The Alliance for Affordable Internet is a coalition of private sector, public sector, and not-for-profit organisations who have come together to advance the shared aim of affordable access to both mobile and fixed-line Internet in developing countries. The World Wide Web Foundation serves as the secretariat for the Alliance.”

Whilst the UK cannot be classed as a “developing” country in the same respect as (crazy) trials by Google and by Microsoft in areas such as Africa; the experience gained will almost certainly be used for good in those regions.

The second part of the A4AI’s vision reads: “Our primary goal is to see the UN Broadband Commission Broadband Target of entry-level broadband services priced at less than 5% of average monthly income realised. In working towards this vision, we hope to help billions more users to come online (with a particular focus on low-income countries) and to make universal access a reality.”

This is more relevant a goal for the UK, particularly in Glasgow, who has the lowest level of broadband take-up of all UK cities. Free WiFi may whet the appetite of Glasgowegians (fictitious term) and eventually drive a higher adoption – or more competitive pricing.

One of the biggest benefits of using spectrum available in White Space is its reach; due to the low-frequency it can travel much further than standard WiFi and other radio signals.

What do you think about the White Space trials in the UK (and elsewhere)?

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