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Whitespace Technology and Microsoft Target Faster Rural Broadband

Monday, December 17th, 2018 (4:12 pm) - Score 1,827
microsoft airband tvws wireless signal

Sheffield-based company Whitespace Technology (WT) has joined forces with Microsoft as part of a new “strategic collaboration” that will aim to use a TV White Space (TVWS) based wireless network to extend faster broadband connectivity into remote rural parts of the UK, Europe and Africa.

The TVWS technology has been around for a few short years now and it works by harnessing the gaps that exist between radio spectrum in the Digital Terrestrial TV (DTTV) bands, which operate between about 470MHz to 694MHz and this makes them good for delivering wide coverage (up to around 10km).

Normally those spectrum gaps would be intended to help minimise the risk of interference between TV channels but TVWS gets around this by using a dynamic spectrum management system (database), which means that the gaps can instead be used for delivering data (without disrupting the terrestrial television signal).

Broadway Partners have already built a number of 50Mbps capable wireless broadband networks using this technology in the UK via their ISP Broadway Broadband, but they’re not the only game in town. Another UK company, WT, hopes to do something similar by joining with Microsoft and their Airband Initiative (completely unrelated to the separate UK ISP called Airband).

Shelley McKinley, Microsoft’s head of Technology, said:

“Without reliable internet access, many people living in rural communities around the world are unable to take advantage of the same opportunities as their urban neighbours. We are excited to partner with Whitespace Technology to bring broadband to students, farmers, educators and business owners so that they have an equal opportunity to learn, grow, contribute and prosper in the 21st century economy.”

Mark Wheeler, Whitespace Technology CEO, added:

“The Whitespace Technology team we have assembled, has extensive experience in ISP creation from start-up to scale, and delivering great technical services whilst maintaining passion for the product and the customer experience. We’re applying innovative TVWS technology to our legacy knowledge and using this to deliver life-changing services to communities all over the world.

We’re so excited to be working with the great team at Microsoft to take our knowledge and passion to drive the Microsoft Air band Initiative’s global connectivity ambitions forward, and to demonstrate that TVWS solutions can be implemented quickly, at a fraction of the cost of other technologies, to create a robust and reliable service.”

The new partnership is said to conclude a 24-month collaboration between the two companies and “focusses on taking the technology to some of the 3 billion unconnected users worldwide through regional development, research & development and joint marketing.”

Furthermore WT said they will aim to “deliver the first scale commercial TVWS rollout in the UK” and become the “main provider capable of delivering affordable TV whitespace solutions in UK, Europe and beyond.” Sadly no details on their service speeds, prices or roll-out plan were revealed.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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6 Responses
  1. Avatar Jim Weir

    Same person previously a director of Broadway Partners

    Is this just another company with no assets and no funding promising to solve everything for everyone.

  2. Avatar Andy Pearce

    The team assembled are ex plusnet and BT, pretty sure Microsoft add credibility, I’ve heard they’re quite a big deal in the tech world

    • Avatar Jim Weir

      @Andy

      Maybe read up on the Microsoft Airband deal first! Basically MS is setting a global fixed price point for all the hardware and a regional price for the database management costs. They aren’t building networks – that is for local partners, which is very easy to sign up for via MS Airband Scheme in the US so unlikely to be vastly different in Europe.

      Even with the MS discount, operators are looking at a 5 year break even point on the hardware with average density of subscribers per radio, that’s not sustainable when the lifespan will be little more than 5years.

      Broadway have been pushing TVWS for years without much real scale, but recently didn’t pass Ofcom’s section 1 test for USO designation… that tells you everything you need to know about this techs long term viability.

      And with a trademark like VirtualFibre! Really!

      Non Line of Sight Wireless is cool tech, but commercially this doesn’t stack up

  3. Avatar In-mcd

    They are currently looking for signups in rural Perthshire/fife. Apparently up to 50mbps symmetrical, no data caps, for 35 pounds per month. Sounds too good to be true….

  4. Avatar Dom

    any relevance for rural West Wales?

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