Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A vote for broadband in the "white spaces"

All eyes are on the presidential election today, but another important vote just took place at the Federal Communications Commission. By a vote of 5-0, the FCC formally agreed to open up the "white spaces" spectrum -- the unused airwaves between broadcast TV channels -- for wireless broadband service for the public. This is a clear victory for Internet users and anyone who wants good wireless communications.

The FCC has been looking at this issue carefully for the last six years. Google has worked hard on this matter with other tech companies and public interest groups because we think that this spectrum will help put better and faster Internet connections in the hands of the public. We also look forward to working with the FCC to finalize the method used to compute power levels of empty channels adjacent to TV channels (we have a number of public filings before the commission in this area and it is a vital issue in urban areas).

I've always thought that there are a lot of really incredible things that engineers and entrepreneurs can do with this spectrum. We will soon have "Wi-Fi on steroids," since these spectrum signals have much longer range than today's Wi-Fi technology and broadband access can be spread using fewer base stations resulting in better coverage at lower cost. And it is wonderful that the FCC has adopted the same successful unlicensed model used for Wi-Fi, which has resulted in a projected 1 billion Wi-Fi chips being produced this year. Now that the FCC has set the rules, I'm sure that we'll see similar growth in products to take advantage of this spectrum.

As an engineer, I was also really gratified to see that the FCC decided to put science over politics. For years the broadcasting lobby and others have tried to spread fear and confusion about this technology, rather than allow the FCC's engineers to simply do their work.

Finally, I want to applaud and thank FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, the other commissioners, and the FCC Office of Engineering and Technology for their leadership in advancing this important issue. And, thanks to the more than 20,000 of you who took a stand on this issue through our Free the Airwaves campaign, the FCC heard a clear message from consumers: these airwaves can bring wireless Internet to everyone everywhere.


Jeoff Wilks said...

Incredible news! This is clearly the most efficient way to leverage the spectrum, and it sets the groundwork for an explosion of innovation.

Nearly as incredible are the statements of dissent from wireless microphone manufacturers et. al, who would withhold spectrum from the many for the sake of the one person behind the microphone.

Eventually a wireless mic will come along that sends audio digitally using the same white space scanning mechanism -- and put yesterday's wireless microphones out of business.

jc said...

Great victory!

Now user will have broadband remote access beyond DSL, Cable Modem and WiMax.

Amir said...

The white spaces are the first frontier.

We should promote a long term vision that would have the FCC open the entire spectrum to sharing protocols. Unfortunately this technology direction is contrary to the revenue model of the FCC.

Spectrum ownership is a rapidly deprecating business model. The big question mark is where will the billions of dollars in these markets go.

Charbax said...

Let's not make the same mistake we did with WiFi. Where 95% of WiFi hotspots are privately encrypted by WPA and where there is very little % of all those hotspots that are used for users to roam.

We need a FON 2.0 model deployed using an Open Social type of common standard for authentification and sharing of hotspots and throttling so that the authentification does not happen using a key on the router, but by it being through a browser authentification mechanism (which a standard can be made to also work for non browser based devices).

Google needs to make this a very rapid change, within 3 months or so have amazing total national coverage.

if you mass produce a FON 2.0 type of router that people install themselves at home on their ADSL, Cable, Fiber or whatever connections, let's say 1 million pieces quickly mass manufactured could cost $10-$40 each, per White Spaces router. 1 million such routers distributed to 1 million users to install at home themselves should be plenty enough to cover a whole country.

Just make sure there is a standard for secure roaming from one router to the other.. and have a complete bandwidth management throttling system built-in so that users can prioritize their own bandwidth usage for themselves, and to eventually be able to charge people per megabyte used.

Smart Spectrum said...

As an engineer, I'm sure Mr Page would agree the Report & Order released on Friday Nov 14th (..about a week after the "historic vote") is also a great win. (..and no spectrum auctions thank goodness!)

Putting aside the license regime adopted for the TVWS spectrum and wireless microphones for a minute..

I'd offer that, as possibly hinted at in Commissioner Adelstein statement from the R&O, the to-be-released NOI on "high power use" of TVWS spectrum (and how soon it arrives) might be a key tipping point for getting access to the TVWS spectrum to provide broadband Internet Access--especially in rural settings.

Add to this that, should the FCC do any foot dragging on this NOI, the large phone & cable companies will certainly have plenty of time to go after low powered TVWS use without having to worry that any new competing infrastructure entrants that might have sprung up had the NOI been an NPRM ready to be acted upon.

All this begs the question..

Will the NOI create significant delays for TVWS high powered use and have we missed an opportunity for a relatively fast build out of rural under-served markets using TVWS spectrum? ..and is this yet another example of failure on the broadband policy front for the United States?

Certainly is food for thought..