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Google pushes for ‘white space’ bandwidth

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Google imagines spectrum as ‘WiFi 2.0’

Just like it didn’t win the 700Mhz auction – but played a major influencer role in its outcome – Google made a filing last Friday with the FCC calling for the use of unlicensed over-the-air TV ‘white space’ spectrum to be used for broadband services, though it doesn’t want to provide those services itself.

Google made its ex parte filing as part of the FCC’s ongoing docket on the subject. The ‘white spaces” proposal, backed by Microsoft, Philips, Dell, HP and others (collectively known as the Wireless Innovation Alliance), has had a rough time mainly because early efforts to test the technology at the FCC have largely failed.

The latest unsuccessful attempt came just last month, with tester Microsoft claiming the power problems in that test were unrelated to the core interference issues others – mainly the National Association of Broadcasters – have been calling the biggest roadblock to white space services.

Google held a press call on its proposal Monday with Richard Whitt, Google’s telecommunications counsel, dubbing white space mobile broadband “WiFi on steroids.”

The details of Google’s interest in white space services came Friday in a six-page letter to the FCC. Its vision includes a combination of fixed and mobile access devices, “coupled with” Google’s Android mobile platform, which the filing says would “be an excellent match for the TV white space.”

Google said it isn't interested in becoming a wireless provider or building its own white-space network but would provide – at no cost – technical support, intellectual property and reference to get a white space network launched and operating.

As for interference with existing spectrum, Google’s proposal described a three-pronged approach: white-space devices would wait for an all-clear “permission-to-transmit” signal from other devices before transmitting; local wireless microphone beacons would block white-space transmissions as necessary; and a “safe harbor” zone between channels 36 and 38 would be free of all white-space transmissions.

The heart of Google’s proposition is that smarter edge devices change the game when it comes to using and sharing spectrum.

“Modern spectrum-sensing technologies enabled by low-cost computers in communications devices can provide one obvious mechanism for restoring our nation's spectrum resource to practical use,” Google said. “As a result, we soon could see a low-cost and open infrastructure, supporting a near-unlimited bandwidth Internet service, improving every year as computer and radio technologies continue to evolve. This would be akin to a faster, longer range, higher data rate WiFi service – ‘WiFi 2.0’ if you will.”

Coincidentally or not, Google’s white-space filing comes as the FCC named the winners of its 700 Mhz auction, for which Google placed bids but did not win.

The FCC isn’t expected to rule on white-space spectrum use for several months. Even if approved, the spectrum wouldn’t be available until February 2009 at the earliest, timed to coincide with the shift to all-digital over-the-air TV.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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