Interest in white spaces heats up

Google could very well find itself once again pitted against incumbent wireless operators in its lobbying efforts in 2008. Google, which lobbied the FCC hard for open access provisions for the 700 MHz auction, has recently stepped up its efforts around "white spaces," or unlicensed spectrum that sits between airwaves currently licensed to TV broadcasters, as a vehicle for broadband services. It recently presented results of an "initial phase of ongoing trials" around white space technology.

Now Sprint and T-Mobile have weighed in, telling the FCC that white spaces should be used on a licensed basis for backhaul. (See story below.) Add the concern that the broadcasting industry has over potential interference, and we have a highly charged debate brewing in 2008.

Google doesn't seem all that serious about winning the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction, and it appears white spaces are more favorable alternatives for a company that would be required to bid billions for spectrum and spend billions more to buildout a network in the 700 MHz band--especially if it desires to just build a network solely to offer wholesale access to resellers.

Fortunately for Google, Microsoft and other companies pushing for white spaces, they have a captive audience with the FCC, which would like to see white spaces usher in broadband competition. It's just getting over that pesky interference problem. In 2007, the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology found through preliminary trials of the prototypes that "the transmitter in the prototype device is capable of causing interference to TV broadcasting and wireless microphones." 

We could very well see some powerful lobbying forces at work this year.--Lynnette


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