White Spaces: Google’s Second Bite At The Wireless Apple

Now that the 700MHz auction is over and Verizon and AT&T are the winners of the largest spectrum blocks, Google is placing renewed emphasis on its shared bid for a piece of unlicensed TV “white spaces.” We’ve written about the so-called “white space coalition” previously.

The coalition of companies seeking to gain access to the TV airwaves includes Dell, HP, Philips, Microsoft, and Intel. TV broadcasters have opposed the idea because they fear that wireless devices operating on the bandwidth would interfere with their signals. And early tests of the white spaces effort were indeed unsuccessful.

Essentially, this vacated spectrum would allow for the creation of mobile broadband networks or wireless Internet access at faster speeds than current networks allow. The 700MHz airwaves are similarly being freed for wireless use because of the switch to digital broadcasting. Here’s Google’s early public policy blog post on the white spaces effort:

These unused channels will become even more useful for broadband applications once broadcasters vacate some of this spectrum as part of the February 2009 digital television transition . . .

Google and other companies (including Dell, EarthLink, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft, and Philips) have formed the “White Spaces Coalition,” to persuade the FCC to establish appropriate interference standards that would allow entrepreneurs to develop fixed and mobile devices that utilize these airwaves. Earlier this year, the coalition submitted two prototype devices (from Microsoft and Philips) to the FCC’s engineers to demonstrate the feasibility of this approach.

Yesterday Google characterized the prospect of white space spectrum as “WiFi on steroids.”

Google did not win any of the 700MHz bandwidth, although it secured the right of open access for third-party devices and software on the C Block (now owned by Verizon). In a way, the white spaces effort represent Google’s second bite at the wireless apple.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Google: Business Issues | Google: Mobile | Google: Partnerships

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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