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Huh? Microsoft Plans to Use White Space Technology to Deliver Internet

Microsoft plans on using abandoned TV white space channels in order to deliver broadband internet to under serviced areas. Say what?

microsoft rural broadband

Microsoft is planning on using TV frequencies in order to provide people in the rural parts of the country with internet.  But, how, you ask?  I’m not really sure that I get it, but I’ll do my best to explain.  They are going to take the white space and send broadband technology through said white space, using unused TV channels.  Again, you are asking how this works?  Let’s back up for a moment.  Back in the day, TV was broadcast through the air, and those channels actually still exist. In between those channels, however, is what is known as white space. While this might sound confusing to you, it seems that Microsoft has figured out a way to use this technology.  Which is incredible!

According to Gizmodo, “Enterprising scientists have figured out how to turn that white space into a sort of super wi-fi and broadcast internet service to a many miles-wide radius. What’s extra special is that, unlike wi-fi or cellular service, the stronger TV signal can penetrate buildings and other obstacles. This makes it ideal for rural areas, where conventional broadband service is either unavailable or prohibitively expensive.”  Not only is Microsoft able to do this, it even might be “better” than wifi or cellular data in some cases.  The whole “can you hear me now?” concept might be one of the past.

microsoft pilot

Microsoft plans on rolling this out in 12 states including New York and Virginia.  So now you know how the technology works, but you’re probably wondering how it works for consumers.  Well, when I first read this, I had this weird image in my head.  Which was – I turn my TV on, and suddenly the internet is transmitted to my laptop.  Obviously, that’s ridiculous, but you can’t blame me.  This is kind of a far fetched concept isn’t it?  You will need some hardware in your home, which presumably is how the internet is transmitted into your house.  Which is going to cost the consumer money.  Which is estimated around $1,000 for the hardware in the first year.  Microsoft suggests that the price will decrease in the second year, but that remains to be seen.

In addition, Microsoft is going to build regional stations as the distance this technology can travel is limited.  The big question I have – is this good news for rural America?  The goal is to bring broadband service to the under serviced areas, but is this the answer?  It certainly is an interesting concept, to say the least.  When most of us think about alternative ways to get internet, we typically think about phone lines, or satellites.  Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t have even considered this type of technology to actually work.  And that, in itself, remains to be seen.

I’m interested to see where Microsoft goes with this, and whether or not it actually ends up working the way they hope it does.  Further, it will be interesting to see how much it will cost for both the hardware and the service.  Getting broadband service to the under serviced areas is a great idea, but at what cost?  If people can’t afford the hardware and the service cost, then it’s not necessarily worth Microsoft’s investment into the infrastructure.  As always, I think this concept is ingenious and I can’t wait to see what else they do with it.

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