A report in the Sunday Telegraph this weekend revealed that both Google and Microsoft are very interested in utilising UK white space spectrum to provide free Wi-Fi services. The newspaper sites “senior government sources” indicating that the two US tech giants have “extreme interest” in the unused spectrum. It is speculated that either company could build-in free, automatic Wi-Fi access around the UK into their smartphone platform; that’s a pretty good USP.
White space spectrum is the unused gaps in between TV stations that are left there to prevent interference. There is a lot of white space in the UK particularly due to regional TV stations; neighbouring regional TV channels will use different frequencies to avoid clashing at the borders of reception. Basically, for instance, the Granada TV spectrum will be white space in the Yorkshire TV region. Wi-Fi services using these frequencies will apparently have a much better range and penetration than your home Wi-Fi equipment.
Ofcom wants to develop this spectrum with new technology next year, says the Telegraph. The white space Wi-Fi technology could be a great USP for a tech company who wants to push their particular mobile platform. The Telegraph says that both Microsoft and Google have launched “a major charm offensive” to try and get their hands on the white space. A government source speaking to the newspaper said “They clearly see it as very, very important. They have shown extreme interest in this as a way of getting closer to customers and offering something different to Apple.” Perhaps this would be more useful to customers than the 4G services and plans currently offered by EE!
An analyst speaking to the Telegraph thought that while the white space Wi-Fi services would be free for either platform’s customers it may be accessible to other users to sign in and use. “There'll be some trade-off, for example giving them all your details, but people have been expecting a move like this from Google for some time,” said Shaun Collins at CCS Insight.
It will be interesting to see the range, speed and how widespread the white space Wi-Fi availability is when it becomes available. Some people even think it could be the magic bullet for the rural broadband problem.