Microsoft´s project to connect more people to the internet by taking advantage of unused white space from television signals has run into trouble.
Microsoft’s White Spaces Project has hit an obstacle in the form of the Indian government, which believes the company should enter an auction to buy the spectrum it needs to expand the project in the country.
Tech companies and over-zealous media outlets may have you believing you are living in a connected world, but the truth is, it is very much a disconnected one.
Over three billion people (near half the global population) live without internet, let alone a connected device like a feature phone or smartphone.
Microsoft is one of the companies trying to get those three billion people connected, doing so in an affordable manner that could open up an unprecedented market for the company.
India was chosen as an ideal proving ground for the roll out of the White Spaces Project, a country of over 1.2 billion, many of whom are still unconnected to the internet. India born Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, even met with the country’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to discuss the merits of the project.
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Redmond believes that white space is an ideal way to connect rural parts of the globe with a current internet source. The signal sits on the 470MHz to 790MHz frequencies, a lower frequency than cellphone that sits unused in the television spectrum as it is a buffer for Wi-Fi connectivity.
This inexpensive signal can get to hard to reach locations that telecom companies either cannot get to or are not trying to get to.
Problems have arisen as India has seemingly realized it has a commodity that it can sell, with Minister for Communications and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “The government will not provide any spectrum without auction and the only exception will be for the defense and the security establishments.”
India is operating a “nothing is free” policy, but Microsoft thinks the government is not seeing the big picture, which is 70% of the entire country getting internet access. The company says just giving 100MHz for free would mean those people could get connected and eventually contribute to the economy of the country.
In a way, the Indian government saying it expects an auction fee to use the spectrum is validation for Microsoft’s idea, but now the company faces negotiations to see if the country will free up the space.