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White Space, the new Wireless Frontier?

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A half-dozen tech companies are hoping a prototype of a device will help solve the serious lack of competition in the wireless access space. Microsoft, Google, Dell, HP, Philips and Intel are planning on delivering a device to the FCC today, according to the Washington Post, that will utilize the unused spectrum between TV channels to deliver broadband.

According to our sources, Microsoft’s engineers volunteered to build a prototype device that is basically a dynamic radio that selects channels based upon perceived presence of other signals. The group is trying to show that such “white space” devices won’t interfere with spectrum that is already in use by TV broadcasters.

If they are successful, it could be an important move to increase competition in the wireless space, potentially driving down prices for consumers and opening up greater access to more content providers. Last week Google,Yahoo eBay, Intel, EchoStar and DirecTV showed their own broadband access ambitions by teaming up to lobby the FCC about how the 700 MHz wireless spectrum auction is held.

OK, so Microsoft’s recent consumer devices haven’t always been so nice, but any competition for the telco-cableco duopoly sounds good to us. The Washington Post says:

Warily watching from the sidelines are the major telephone and cable companies that compete to bring high-speed Internet into millions of businesses and homes.

Market Watch puts it as:

Analysts say that if the white-space group succeeds, consumers could see a flood of new devices enabling them to bypass the networks of incumbent service providers like AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. to get online.

Well, let’s not get too gleeful just yet. There are a lot of broadband options that have been all hyped and have yet to see major rollouts like broadband over powerlines. But, hey, we can still dream right?

10 Responses to “White Space, the new Wireless Frontier?”

  1. Jacomo- just to answer your 1st question about microsoft. If the deal falls through and is successful… everyone<–(this needs to be bolded, underlined, and all caps) is going to want their part in it. So even if they’re not very relevant- they’re going to want to keep their feet in the door.

  2. Comments and Questions:
    1. Why is Microsoft involved with development of a Wireless Radio frequency shifting device or software when their are products out there today in development by Radio vendors? See Airspan.
    2. White Space normally addresses the 400Mhz and lower spectrum and TV Broadcast Channels and not the 700Mhz spectrum. The group may be asking the FCC to test using the 700Mhz spectrum which is free in some markets today.
    3. The 700Mhz spectrum is already set to be auctioned off on Feb 2008 for activation in 2009. What this effort (freeing up the WHite Space to unlicensed use) might undermine is the effort by many Service Providers to be allowed to bid on 700 Mhz spectrum in their immediate geographic areas instead of having to compete with the big CellCO and RBOC in a regional (SE) type auction.

    I am afraid the CellCo, RBOC and major MSO will fight all these efforts (creating an Unlicensed 700Mhz and under 400Mhz service)tooth in nail because they are so heavily invested in Licensed spectrum that costs them Billions. Unless the new COngress forces it the FCC will cave to these big boys and the public will not have access to real competition. The CellCo and their new (3G Plus)Narrowband Data offerings will really suffer if these spectrums are opened up to Unlicensed use.


  3. I figured there would be a conspiracy nut’s angle in this, and there it is in the first comment.

    Meanwhile back on the planet Earth, it’s not clear from news reports whether this system is a low-power, in-home network extender for UWB and WiFi or a high-power, outdoor alternative to WiMax. Until we know that, it’s pointless to speculate about its significance.

  4. With all the vigilant and concerted attacks on net neutrality and municipal wifi that the cable companies and telcos have orchestrated, will they sit idly by?