- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Valuable airwaves that could support new devices and bring broadband service to rural areas are being wasted, Google Inc. said in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission.

The Internet search company is one of several technology giants calling on the FCC to free up portions of unused spectrum located in between broadcast television channels. Known as “white spaces,” the airwaves in dispute were originally allocated to prevent interference with broadcast signals.

But High-tech firms including Google, Microsoft Corp., Intel Corp., Motorola Inc. and Dell Inc., want access to the spectrum, which is prime for wireless high-speed Internet service because of its high bandwidth. The companies say consumer devices operating in the band would be embedded with sensing technology that could detect and avoid broadcast signals.

The spectrum “offers a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide ubiquitous broadband access to all Americans,” Rick Whitt, Google’s Washington telecommunications and media counsel, said yesterday.

“You’ve got a lot of people in Silicon Valley and smart entrepreneurs just itching for ways to use it.”

Mr. Whitt said Google does not aspire to become a wireless carrier, but rather, the company hopes the spectrum will be open for its “Android” mobile software platform for consumer devices.

He said the company, which made its filing with the FCC Friday, will offer free technical support to third-party developers, and Android handsets operating in the white spaces could be made available by late 2009.

While Google believes the spectrum could be best utilized for mobile broadband services, Mr. Whitt said the company foresees a number of different business models and services that could emerge. For example, he said, Philips USA is mulling a wireless service that would allow users to transfer large amounts of media content among devices throughout their homes — something made possible by the spectrum’s large amount of bandwidth.

Supporters of opening up the white spaces have likened the airwaves to Wi-Fi spectrum, which is unlicensed and not the property of any one provider.

But not everyone is in favor of the idea. The National Association of Broadcasters said any operation of consumer devices in the same spectrum as TV signals would cause interference. While Google’s proposal calls for geo-location and beacon technologies to protect TV signals, NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said doing so would not “mean that mobile operation is suddenly feasible.”

“Portable, mobile personal device operation in the same band as TV broadcasting continues to be a guaranteed recipe for producing interference and should not be allowed under any circumstances,” Mr. Wharton said.

The FCC is currently in the second stage of testing devices that use the spectrum-sensing technology but has not set any timetable for the proceeding.

Google participated in a recent but unrelated FCC auction of wireless spectrum that will be made available when TV broadcasters switch from analog to digital signals next February. While the Mountain View, Calif., company did not win any portion of the airwaves, it nevertheless stands to gain because a nationwide chunk of spectrum won by Verizon Communications Inc. is subject to new “open access” rules that allow for any device to be operated on the network.

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