The government is reportedly having detailed discussions with both Microsoft and Google about acquiring licences for unused spectrum – otherwise known as white spaces.

According to The Telegraph, senior government sources have expressed ‘extreme interest’ in the unexploited airwaves.

The spectrum can be found in the gaps between the airwaves that are currently used for television, radio and mobile services, and are used as buffers to prevent these services from interfering with each other.

Communications regulator Ofcom is currently trying to figure out what to do with unused spectrum, but has pointed to boosting capacity for mobile broadband in recent months. For example, it has launched a consultation on the future use of spectrum bands 600Mhz and 700Mhz, which became available following the switch over from analogue TV.

It said at the time of the consultation launch that the UK should reserve these for mobile broadband needs.

Google and Microsoft could be interested in the white spaces in a bid to provide a competitive advantage over Apple, where either company could provide widespread broadband access via their mobile phone offerings.

One government source said: “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.”