Google and Microsoft tipped for UK white-space broadband

Government sources suggest companies planning UK-wide roll-out

6 Nov 2012
Google Android 4.2

Google and Microsoft are allegedly working on deals that could see free or low-cost wireless broadband brought to cities across the UK.

According to anonymous government sources speaking to The Telegraph, both companies are interested in making use of 'white space' radio frequencies available in the UK - gaps in the spectrum allocation typically used to separate two different blocks, such as digital radio and mobile phone signals. These unused chunks of radio spectrum were necessary when devices were extremely sensitive to interference, but as technology has improved so has the ability for devices to more accurately tune their radios - all but eliminating the need for white space gaps.

As a result, the government is looking to auction the spectrum chunks off to the highest bidders - and both Google and Microsoft have expressed an interest, albeit privately.

Both companies are heavily investing in the mobile space at present. Google is responsible for the Android operating system and produces its own tablets and smartphones, while Microsoft has just launched its Surface tablets based on Windows RT and is rumoured to be considering a move into building its own mobile handsets based on its Windows Phone operating system as well.

Access to white spaces would theoretically allow the companies to build wireless broadband technology into their future devices which could be offered at an extremely low cost compared to traditional mobile broadband - or even completely free of charge - while providing much of the same benefits including reception in almost any location within the UK.

For Google, especially, it would be a sound move: the vast majority of the company's income comes from advertising revenue, and the more people use the internet the more revenue the company generates.

Thus far, neither Google nor Microsoft have commented on the rumour - but with the government expected to be looking to auction off the white space spectrum in the near future, ubiquitous cheap wireless broadband could be just around the corner.

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