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Election Day wasn't the only event to make history on November 4th - the FCC made its own kind of history on Tuesday in approving the development of wireless devices that can use "white space" (the unused broadcast TV spectrum between broadcast TV channels, which ranges from 512MHz to 698 MHz). Unlike the close race between fellow senators for the US Presidency, the FCC decision to open up unused TV spectrum was unanimous, ZDNet's Sean Portnoy reports, despite lobbying against the rule by 50 members of Congress and a variety of recording artists worried about the effects of the decision on their live performances.
The decision (available here in PDF format) balances the hopes of companies like Microsoft and Google to make wireless Internet-enabled devices even more ubiquitous than now with the fears of the theater industry that exploiting white space will interfere with wireless microphones that use the same spectrum, and the concerns of the National Association of Broadcasters that using "white space" will interfere with TV viewing.
Protecting Other Devices from White Space Interference
To prevent interference, the FCC will require that "white space" devices must:
...include a geolocation capability and provisions to access over the Internet a data base of the incumbent services, such as full power and low power TV stations and cable system headends, in addition to spectrum-sensing technology. The data base will tell the white space device what spectrum may be used at that location.[end quote]
Locations that use wireless microphones will be listed in the database, and white space devices will be required to "listen" for wireless microphones as further protection against interference.
"White Space" Pioneers
So, who's poised to jump into this new market? PCWorld reports that Dell is already planning to add "white space" support to upcoming products. Meanwhile, GigaOM reports that radio chips that combine Wi-Fi and WiMax support, such as those being developed by Intel and Fujitsu, could also be used for "white space" networking.
AlleyInsider suggests the results will be "a victory for consumers, who could use more choices for Internet access." That may be. However, it will be interesting to see how the extra cost of the database development and anti-interference testing will compare with the savings derived from the lack of license fees for this spectrum.
So, what do you think? Hit the Comment button to tell us where you line up on this issue.
Illustration courtesy of The Money Times.