Microsoft is taking a technology it has been testing in Africa for several years and introducing it to rural America. Under the 4Afrika program, Microsoft has been using White Spaces to provide affordable and fast broadband connection to the unconnected and underserved population in Africa.
Microsoft has already written to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting to make use of the white spaces; unused channels between TV broadcasts. Microsoft will use white spaces to provide broadband connection to about two million people across 12 States in America over the next five years.
Microsoft President, Brad Smith, told The New York Times, that the white spaces technology is “the best solution for reaching over 80 percent of people in rural America who lack broadband.”
The white spaces program by Microsoft will be first deployed in New York, Texas, Virginia, Georgia, Washington, South Dakota, North Dakota, Maine, Michigan, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Arizona.
In a letter address to the FCC, Microsoft writes, “Millions of Americans, including millions of students, largely in rural communities, lack broadband internet access, which is a critical component of enabling success in today’s digital society.”
During their trial programs using white space in Africa and India, Microsoft established that this technology is a very effective tool that can be used to expand existing broadband networks into unserved and underserved communities.
That is because white spaces technologies utilize frequency bands that enable network operators to expand their wireless broadband signals much further than what other bands could, while at the same time requiring minimal infrastructure installation. The technology is also affordable to deploy and maintain.
“As a result, with white spaces technologies, providers can expand their networks to serve communities where existing technologies are economically impractical to deploy.”
Microsoft goes further to ask the FCC to enable the use of white spaces in a restriction of just three white spaces channels per market while preserving one vacant UHF channel in each market.
“This regulatory certainty is critical to supporting the investment needed to take the important step of reducing the technology to a chip,” Microsoft says so that it does not interrupt the regular TV broadcasts.
“This will drive down prices to levels that can allow pervasive nationwide availability, but chipmakers will only take this step if there are three channels available.”
White spaces technology has been a discussion by many companies as the best alternative tool for availing broadband connection to masses for years now. The technology uses frequencies able to reach 10-15 kilometers and able to penetrate buildings.