This case is set on the verge of Microsoft initiating a TV white-space pilot in the Philippines in the summer of 2013; the uncertainty surrounding the new technology's performance in the region provides a view of the risks organizations face early on in the innovation process, particularly when decisions are decentralized and overseen at a local level.
MS and its public partners in the Philippines were excited about the possibility of setting up the country's first TV white space-enabled broadband network in a remote area that required the connectivity for fisher registrations and government biodiversity initiatives. The technology had proven its success in a few other pilots in Singapore and the UK. In the Philippines, however, risks loomed. Unprecedented complications from an untested hardware supplier and a lack of an essential database arose as the launch date approached. A key decision MS had to make was whether to proceed with the pilot or focus on TV white space pilots elsewhere.
The case introduces students to methods through which they can identify the sources and types of uncertainty associated with a project. Through this they can better evaluate the tradeoff between undertaking a project with a high risk of failure and the benefits that could be obtained through learning about unknown unknowns within such a setting despite the outcome. Moreover, students uncover the necessary conditions for projects to achieve their objectives within this setting. The public-private partnership setting allows students to analyze the type of uncertainty associated with a project; the project, product, and organizational complexity; stakeholder objectives; and discuss the role escalation of commitment could play when an organization seeks to pilot a new technology.