Google, Microsoft to offer nationwide WiFi service in the UK through broadcast whitespaces?

While mobile data speeds are getting faster and faster, many users will still prefer to connect through WiFi networks, especially if the underlying infrastructure has a better quality and speed than the usual 3G or 4G connection. Companies like Google and Microsoft are vying for access to unused spectrum in some regions, in order to offer wide-area WiFi access to users.

The Telegraph reports that two of the bigger mobile platforms today are trying to compete for the so-called “white spaces” in mobile spectrum in the country. With both Google and Microsoft expressing “extreme interest” in these white spaces, there is speculation that both Android and Windows Phone 8 platforms are soon going to include support for free WiFi connectivity as an alternative to mobile data.

Some highlights:

  • Whitespace technology will enable users from rural areas to connect to WiFi networks that have more range than the usual consumer WiFi.
  • Companies could offer free connectivity in exchange for pushing ads to mobile platforms.

The country’s telecommunications regulator, Ofcom, wants to be able to use these whitespaces more efficiently. These are essentially dead spectrums that no telecom or broadcast operator is currently using. Converting these for use in broadband services will enable platform providers to make more efficient use of an otherwise wasted resource. “Recycling airwaves – or ‘spectrum’ – in this way is a highly efficient use of what is a very limited resource,” says the Ofcom.

The regulator has already lobbied for a roll-out of networks based on whitespace technology by 2013, and is in the process of likewise lobbying for the authority to choose which company to work with. As such, Google and Microsoft are keen on being chosen as key partners in this endeavor.

An Ofcom source says either company could use this as an advantage over Apple’s iOS offerings. “They clearly see it as very, very important. They have shown extreme interest in this as a way of getting closer to customers and offering something different to Apple.”

Neither Google nor Microsoft is stranger to wide-access WiFi. Microsoft is already offering something similar, in the form of Skype WiFi (Microsoft owns Skype). This requires a subscription from the user, though. Meanwhile, Google has been an advocate of city-wide WiFi services that are supported by ads.

If the plan to use white spaces for free WiFi pushes through, then this will likely be rolled out to other regions, as well. Is anyone excited for free wireless access through spectrum white spaces?

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