Will new gadgets be able to use airspace between digital TV channels — “white spaces,” or “wi-fi on steroids,” as Google has dubbed it — for Internet access? We’ll know more next month, when the FCC is expected to report its latest test results.
That’s when we’ll find out if gadgets submitted by companies like Philips Electronics pass the FCC’s muster. These aren’t gizmos designed for consumer use. Instead, the FCC is just looking to test the technology that will automatically detect which frequencies of wireless spectrum are being used by TV stations, wireless microphones, etc., so that a potential Internet device would steer clear of them.
And while “FCC engineers aren’t talking about their conclusions” so far, the gadgets aren’t exactly flying through their evaluations. WSJ:
Recently, FCC engineers spent a day at FedEx Field, the home of the Washington Redskins. Several engineers roamed the football stadium for hours, testing two prototype boxes designed to figure out which TV channels and wireless microphones were in use.
Neither box worked perfectly. A prototype designed by Philips Electronics NV’s Philips Electronics North America Corp. was too sensitive: It said every TV channel in the stadium was in use, which wasn’t the case. The other, from a Singapore research group, picked up some channels in use in the area but not others.
Just as important: Even if the gadgets pass their technical tests, plenty of political hurdles remain.
Broadcasters and wireless mic companies, for instance, will continue to argue that white space devices will interfere with their businesses. No matter what the results says.
And because of the business model that companies like Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT) are eyeing for this spectrum — they want to use the spectrum for free, just like wi-fi and Bluetooth do — the wireless industry will raise a fuss, too. Carriers like AT&T and Verizon Wireless just spent $19 billion on wireless spectrum licenses in a FCC auction. So expect them to argue that it’d be unfair for the government to give away free airwaves similar to those the carriers just spent a gigantic amount of money on.
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