This article is more than 1 year old

If at first you don't succeed, you're Microsoft pushing its magical white space broadband

This time, Brad, this time

First, it is persuading itself that if it can get White‑Fi projects up and running that economies of scale will massively reduce the price of the equipment: it hopes from $1,000 down to $200 or even $100. That is likely wishful thinking.

But critically, the reason Smith was in Washington, DC, and not in Microsoft's hometown of Seattle is that he needs federal and local government to make it happen.

"Specifically, it will be important for the FCC to ensure that three channels below 700 MHz are available for wireless use on an unlicensed basis in every market in the country, with additional TV white spaces available in smaller markets and rural areas," Smith pleaded.


And the cost? "We believe that federal and state infrastructure investments should include targeted funds on a matching basis for the capital investments that will best expand coverage into rural areas that currently lack broadband access today." In other words, we need the government to pick up half the cost of rolling it out.

To make that argument, Smith claims that White‑Fi is the cheapest way to get the roughly 25 million people in rural areas connected. "By relying on this mixture of technologies, the total capital and initial operating cost to eliminate the rural broadband gap falls into a range of $8 to $12 billion. This is roughly 80 per cent less than the cost of using fiber cables alone, and it's over 50 per cent cheaper than the cost of current fixed wireless technology like 4G."

It's a good goal, and presumably Smith and Microsoft were hoping that the much-touted infrastructure bill pushed by the Trump administration would have edged into some kind of reality by now.

If the White House does finally emerge from its self-inflicted wars and actually get down to legislating, it is possible that white space broadband could become a pet project – and Microsoft would be right there ready to push it along.

That is, if it's willing to take on the powerful National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which argued to the FCC just this month that – you guessed it – White‑Fi interferes with their TV stations. They're still not keen.

"Microsoft has been making promises about white-spaces technology for well over a decade," wrote the NAB's associate general counsel. "At what point do we finally conclude that the white spaces project is a bust?"

But Brad ain't listening. Brad ain't listening. ®

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