Microsoft Testing Unused Spectrum for Phones

Microsoft, BT and Sky are testing “white space” spectrum for a broadband mobile network in the U.K., signaling a charge to make a bigger dent in the wireless industry.

The consortium of companies is holding a trial to demonstrate a new service that uses channels, called “white-space,” which operate at a much lower frequency than traditional frequencies, potentially freeing up the shortage of spectrum affecting the wireless industry.

“Spectrum is a finite natural resource. We can’t make more and we must use it efficiently and wisely,” said Dan Reed, Microsoft’s vice president of technology policy and strategy, to 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.”

Unlike regular spectrum, which is locked up and regulated by owners, the Federal Communications Commission declared unlicensed spectrum free to use. It doesn’t interfere with TV signals and could potentially open up the log jam plaguing carriers, as they look for new ways to deliver high-bandwidth services to data-hungry customers.

AT&T, meanwhile, is hoping to convince the FCC that one of the key benefits to allowing it to buy T-Mobile, whether real or not, is to consolidate valuable spectrum, highlighting the scarcity of the resource.

For Microsoft, the trial represents a new plan to inject life into its mobile strategy. After a successful start with Windows Mobile, the company has largely fallen to the rise of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms.

The new “Super Wi-Fi” trial, if successful, may be integrated into future Windows products, giving Microsoft an advantage over rivals.

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