White space Super Wi-Fi trial begins in Cambridge

Microsoft today begins one of the largest trials of 'white space' Wi-Fi - which promises to bring faster Internet connections to rural communities - in Cambridge.

Dubbed 'Super Wi-Fi' by leading Microsofties, the technology uses the dead space between TV channels to transmit Internet data.

Because it uses much lower frequencies than normal Wi-Fi, it is capable of transmitting over far great distances, meaning those too far away from exchanges to get traditional copper or optical-based Internet connections can join the rest of us on the Web.

Because of those low frequencies, somewhere in the 100 MHz to 800 MHz range, the signals can also pass through walls without too much degradation.

Microsoft has hooked up with a veritable Who's Who of telecoms outfits for the trial, in the form of Nokia, Sky, the BBC and BT. But it's a win-win situation for all involved as the frequencies between the frequencies are already licensed, which makes the whole idea cheaper all 'round.

Today's test could theoretically deliver speeds of 16Mb per second over an impressive six miles, which is better than most of us get on hard-wired connections sitting next to the poxy exchange.

But the main thrust of the experiment is to see whether the white space hardware, which jumps between the unused frequencies to find the one with the least noise on it, will stop Aunt Ethel watching that nice Noel Edmonds chap wax lyrical while unemployed folk open boxes on the telly.

If all goes well, Ofcom could approve the technology for widespread use.