Microsoft's Plan to Bridge the US Digital Divide

TV White Spaces Will Be Used to Fill the Connectivity Gap


We recently wrote about AT&T's expansion of its fixed wireless programme to bring broadband access to rural, disconnected areas in the US. The provider is rolling out LTE-based Internet access to selected residential areas, beginning in several southern states (see AT&T Expands Its Fixed Wireless Service). With speeds of about 10 Mbps, the service won't be exceptionally fast, but the goal is to bring basic connectivity to underserved areas.

AT&T's programme receives funding through the Connect America Fund, an initiative from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC regards Internet access as a fundamental utility and points to parallels in electrification of the country almost a century ago. The vast majority of areas were hooked up to the grid, but there were gaps, mainly in rural locations. According to Microsoft, more than 23 million people in hard-to-reach parts of the US still don't have a broadband connection, partly owing to a lack of service.

After experimenting with ways to deliver broadband access to areas in developing markets, Microsoft is now focussing on the underserved in its backyard.

On Tuesday, at an event in Washington, the company announced a programme to bring connectivity to rural communities in the US, where residences and businesses have no reasonable way to remain connected to the Internet. Microsoft plans to use TV spectrum that exists between broadcasts to address connectivity problems. It has developed and tested software, along with chipsets, devices and TV white spaces antennas to exploit the unused spectrum. The company has also trialled services using the components in several African countries, as well as in Bhutan, Jamaica, the Philippines and Uruguay. Microsoft says it has deployed the technology in 17 countries and served 185,000 users.

For the programme to be effective, Microsoft says the FCC must allow broader use of white spaces spectrum in the country. To make use of the spectrum, a base station that transmits signals at the proper frequency is required, along with matching external antennas installed on residences. The antennas are hardwired to modems inside the house. TV signals use 600 MHz, so they could travel relatively far and over hills and through buildings.

However, Microsoft's initiative will face obstacles such as the availability of devices for use in the TV white spaces spectrum and chipset support (see TV White Spaces Trial Seeks to Ease Mobile Network Congestion).

Microsoft plans to collaborate with local telecom companies in 12 states over the next 12 months and is offering relevant patents royalty-free. Its ambitions for the programme, which it calls the Rural Airband Initiative, is to provide broadband access to 2 million people in rural areas in the US by 2022. Microsoft sees the initiative as a "civic investment", but like all other technology companies racing to offer Internet connections, it hopes there will be long-term dividends through new customers.

Microsoft's vision isn't without its detractors. The National Association of Broadcasters, a US trade group representing TV and radio broadcasters, sees the white spaces as its territory and believes Microsoft's plans to use the spectrum without paying any licensing fees is paradoxical for a company worth $540 billion.

These accusations of encroachment, free-riding and frequency interference could slow Microsoft's vision, but competition from established technologies and the ambitions of large telecommunication companies will pose bigger challenges.

This entry was posted on July 13th, 2017 and is filed under Devices. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Posted By Raghu Gopal On July 13th, 2017


Comments
(There are no comments yet)
Leave a Comment

Hot News

Team Tweets

CCS Insight
Our latest survey of IT buyers in businesses shows #security, #ArtificialIntelligence and @Microsoft are shaping th… https://t.co/FxcqJYUd5a
Follow CCS Insight
Shaun Collins
More sedate timescales than we have seen from some telcos. There is still a long way to go with the 4G networks upg… https://t.co/xkb73jA4ia
Follow Shaun
Ben Wood
Nice piece in @MobileNewsMag about Doro. Exciting time for Doro with Peter Marsden in charge and expansion into new… https://t.co/t8OVBEiQY7
Follow Ben
Martin Garner
RT @geoffblaber: China now the only regulatory obstacle to Qualcomm acquisition of NXP. Central to growth & defense from Broadcom https://t…
Follow Martin
Geoff Blaber
RT @martin_garner: More unhelpful AI vs. Man narrative from a Web giant - this time it's @alibaba. This does not move the world forwards wi…
Follow Geoff
Marina Koytcheva
RT @TheEconomist: The number of words a child hears before the age of five helps determine their future. One of our most popular videos of…
Follow Marina
Nicholas McQuire
RT @EnterpriseCIO_: Why security, #AI and Microsoft are shaping the digital workplace in 2018 https://t.co/3qmq1rr4L8 https://t.co/4RJgB11I…
Follow Nicholas
Paolo Pescatore
This looks like a comprehensive #UHD #4K offering from @CANAL_France @canalplusgroupe #LeDécodeurCanal… https://t.co/3mKgJdntz2
Follow Paolo
Kester Mann
Consolidation was always the way ahead for Indian telcos. But tough challenges remain. Today's Daily Insight is wel… https://t.co/Lv6zXQRHnG
Follow Kester
George Jijiashvili
@vladsavov I pickled my purple brains eastern european style
Follow George
Laura Simeonova
RT @CCSInsight: Optimization for artificial intelligence defines competitiveness in mobile chipsets in 2019 and beyond #ccspredicts https:/…
Follow Laura
Katie Taylor
RT @guardianscience: Scientists make first ever attempt at gene editing inside the body https://t.co/e8u0BT9a09
Follow Katie

Recent Blog Posts

Blog Post
Security, AI and Microsoft Are Shaping the Digital Workplace CCS Insight's IT Buyer Survey Points to Further Market Shift... Read more
Blog Post
India's Big Three Operator Consolidation Is Quickly Changing India's Wireless ... Read more
Blog Post
A Change of Pace LG Ditches the Yearly Phone Release Schedule For Samsung an... Read more
More blog

Latest Company News

Blog Post
Expectations for CES 2018 The Big Trends to Watch at This Year's Show ... Read more
More news