By DAMIEN GAYLE
Last updated at 9:24 AM on 29th June 2011
Trials of a new breed of 'super WiFi' that uses the white space between TV channels are set to begin in Cambridge.
Microsoft, the BBC, BSkyB and BT are among the tech giants investigating how the gaps in frequencies between TV broadcasts can be used to transmit broadband.
They hope the technology could help them create 'super WiFi' networks that can support bandwidth hungry mobile internet devices like smartphones and tablet computers.
The aim of the trials, which begin this week, is to show that the new services do not interfere with TV signals.
So-called 'white space' includes the unused frequencies in the TV spectrum - between 470MHz and 790MHz - which are left empty to avoid broadcasts leaking into one and other.
With wavelengths much lower than regular WiFi, these frequencies are able to travel further and penetrate much more deeply into buildings, raising the possibility of regional broadband networks available to thousands of users.
Developers hope the technology will help provide basic broadband infrastructures for rural areas, where it would be uneconomical to lay extensive fibre-optic cabling.
They also hope that additional radio spectrum can be made available for mobile broadband networks, which are beginning to creak under the strain of high bandwidth mobile broadband devices.
Neul, one of the companies involved in the consortium, has a production-ready system which can deliver up to 16Mbps at a range of 10km.
Microsoft executive Dan Reed told the Financial Times that the radio spectrum is a finite naturally resource that must efficiently and wisely managed.
'The TV white spaces offer tremendous potential to extend the benefits of wireless connectivity to many more people, in more locations, through the creation of super WiFi networks,' he said
Microsoft is leading the Cambridge TV White Spaces Consortium, which also includes a number of boutique UK tech companies.
The consortium issued a statement saying: 'With the number of connected devices and data applications growing rapidly, and with mobile networks feeling the strain, we must find ways of satisfying the traffic demands of today and tomorrow.
'This trial will attempt to demonstrate that unused TV spectrum is well-placed to increase the UK's available mobile bandwidth, which is critical to effectively responding to the exponential growth in data-intensive services, while also enabling future innovation.'