Black Presidents & White Spaces

Yesterday was a historic day for the United States as the nation elected its first Black President. Only 50 years, segregation was still practiced and blacks and whites didn’t even share the same bathrooms and water fountains. Clearly, a shift in ideology is taking place… but its not the only color barrier that was broken yesterday.

By a vote of 5-0, the FCC agreed to open the “white spaces” spectrum for Wireless Broadband services. You know that whole TV-changeover thing where certain TVs will be rendered useless? Yeah, well the vacant spectrum will now be able to be used by people like you and me to connect to the internet… anywhere… anytime.

This successful FCC acceptance was 6-years in the making and won’t come to fruition without some serious planning. The White Space use cannot interfere with existing models from television stations and wireless devices used in speakers and microphones at sporting events and concerts, for example. But Google is happy to help fine a non-intrusive method of making it work. And when they do…

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.

Who gets to use the spectrum when, where, how and all that jazz is still undetermined. But it seems that Google has proposed a real-time auction system similar to how it runs advertising through its AdWords platform:

The way that spectrum has traditionally been allocated is inefficient, and causes a lot of valuable spectrum to go to waste. Larry proposed that spectrum could be auctioned off by the government on a real-time basis (similar to Google’s ad auction), allowing devices and consumers to use spectrum as they need it. He also suggested that the U.S. government agencies that hold spectrum — primarily the Department of Defense — be allowed to have real-time auctions of their unused spectrum to other potential users, which would also additional government revenue.

White Space use still has plenty of detractors, mainly those saying it could interfere with existing spectrum use. But the FCC said no device would be sold to consumers before going through a, “rigorous certification process.” – something the White Space’s biggest Champion, Google, supports.

And perhaps the most vulnerable from this development are the Wireless Carriers. If Google and others can successfully implement a system of auctioning off the white space, your mobile phone carrier will be only one of MANY sources you can “get your net on”. Why not get your wireless data package from a 3rd party?

The Verizon and AT&T’s of the world could potentially force you to buy a data package (with them) through your phone, something that is already being done, but what if calls themselves were made through the wireless broadband acess? Skype Mobile Phone anyone?

The interesting thing is this isn’t just about phones, folks. This could be portable TVs, remote controls, devices in your car while you’re on the road… heck, this is about devices that haven’t even been invented yet! And thats exactly what Google founders Larry and Sergey are trying to point out about the United States:

The U.S. has slipped from third to sixteenth in broadband penetration rates, in part because the U.S. has not shown leadership in encouraging greater broadband access.

For the United States and for the world, the bigger cultural event was the election of the first Black American President. But Geeks and Techies had their second eye on the White Spaces which is a huge, huge win for consumers around the world and something that Obama will likely see first put to use during his term(s) in office.

[Via Official Google Blog (twice), Market Watch]

Continue reading:




  • fred flint

    One thing I haven’t read about is how upload will work. I get how download will simply be broadcast like tv channels are now but now you will need your tv/laptop etc. to also broadcast. I would imagine it would be done like WiMAX but at what frequencies. Is the spectrum divided up into upload and download frequencies? What about the issue of antennas and circuitry. 700Mhz means your going to need bigger antennas and bigger components for efficient transmission so that kind of makes it hard to make small cell phone like devices.