Bloomberg News

Microsoft, BBC to Test TV Spectrum for U.K. Mobile Services

June 27, 2011

(Updates with Microsoft executive’s comment starting in third paragraph.)

June 27 (Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp. and a group of U.K. television broadcasters said they plan to show how unused TV frequencies can be used for high-speed mobile Internet services.

The companies, including British Sky Broadcasting Plc, the British Broadcasting Corp. and BT Group Plc, will use vacant TV channels, known as white spaces, to test wireless services, according to a statement today.

“The technology has become increasingly constrained” and companies need to find more efficient ways to use spectrum, Paul Garnett, Microsoft director of interoperability and standards, said in a telephone interview.

Technology companies are seeking access to frequencies needed to cope with surging demand for high-speed Internet services driven by devices including Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iPad. A U.K. auction for mobile-phone spectrum is scheduled for the first quarter of 2012.

“With mobile networks feeling the strain, we must find ways of satisfying the traffic demands of today and tomorrow,” the group said in the statement. “This trial will attempt to demonstrate that unused TV spectrum is well-placed to increase the U.K.’s available mobile bandwidth.”

In the U.S., federal regulators cleared the way for companies to use white spaces in September. Microsoft, Google Inc. and others are forming plans to exploit the airwaves, in a market that may be worth $3.9 billion to $7.3 billion a year, according to a study funded by Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft. The company is aiming to become a database provider for spectrum holdings in the U.S.

Frequency For Sale

TV broadcasters will be able to sell access to their frequency holdings, according to Microsoft’s Garnett. “The wholesale business model is something that some companies will likely consider,” he said.

The U.S. trial has shown that traditional broadcasters can be protected from interference, Garnett said. The companies will conduct tests on the radio waves, which can travel farther than the frequencies used today for mobile phone services, with the aim of rolling out service in rural areas and offloading mobile data in cities, the group said.

Tests will include streaming high-quality video and audio from the BBC and BSkyB over white spaces to mobile devices from Nokia Oyj and Samsung Electronics Co., according to the group, called the Cambridge TV White Spaces Consortium.

--Editors: David Risser, Tom Lavell

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Browning in London at jbrowning9@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net


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