After walking away from the FCC’s $19 billion wireless spectrum auction a “happy loser,” Google talks up another way it could make its presence felt in the mobile industry: “White spaces” devices that use airspace between broadcast TV channels to transmit data.
During a call with reporters today, Google lawyer Rick Whitt outlined a filing the company made with the FCC Friday, rallying behind the “white spaces” cause and detailing some of Google’s ideas to make devices play nice with television signals and wireless microphones. What Google isn’t doing: Submitting devices for the FCC to test out — something Microsoft (MSFT) has tried twice, failing both times.
The back story: Google (GOOG), Motorola (MOT), Microsoft, Dell (DELL), and others want the FCC to open up those chunks of airspace on a free, unlicensed basis — the same way wi-fi devices use the 2.4 GHz band. That is, whoever operates on those airwaves wouldn’t have to bid for the right to use them — and could offer service wherever and on whatever terms they wanted to. That’s different from pricey, licensed spectrum, like the airwaves the FCC finished auctioning off last week for $19 billion.
What’s in it for Google? Another chance to help shape U.S. telecom policy, and a potential new market for gadgets using its Android mobile operating system, which it hopes could someday generate mobile ad revenue.
Assuming the companies eventually get the kinks worked out, Google’s Whitt says consumers might be able to buy gadgets that use the spectrum as early as next year. Like what? Nothing has been detailed, but ideas range from mobile Internet gadgets to home entertainment systems that use the airwaves to send large files — digital movies, for example — around your house.
12:10 Call ends.
12:08 How would Google benefit from this? You mentioned Android… Number of things we think. Hybrid network approach, one unique way we could use spectrum. Combine aspects of fixed access world and portable world. Android (mobile OS) working with lots of companies to develop OS, middleware stack, etc., hope to roll out devices during the summer/fall of this year. Think Android would make a good match with white spaces. We see same kind of business model being deployed — certainly by Google — to the extent we’d be working with people on devices/apps that would use the white spaces.
12:06 Lots of ideas: Mesh approach, WiMax approach, peer-to-peer approach, vs. big nationwide network. Or you could make a nationwide network. Lots of great ideas, could have a number of business models actively competing in the market.
12:03 FCC may decide we don’t need this, and that’d be fine. But we think this is a good time to put this on the record.
11:59 Is white spaces really only feasible alternative for ‘true alternative carrier’ in US broadband? What is earliest something could be available to consumers. Hard to say if last great chance for additional competition. This isn’t the notion of setting up a bunch of wireless carriers, but could be decentralized wireless network. May just be a whole different technology and business models, but lots of ideas out there about ways to use this. No matter what happens, wouldn’t get access to this spectrum until next February. Once digital TV transition is over, when FCC has rules in place, hope to make consumer devices in consumrs hands in holiday season of late 2009.
11:58 What sort of buy-in from FCC already? Did they help draft specifics? Some preliminary conversations with them, but this is all coming from us. Got help from a Motorola filing last fall, but this is mostly from us. No feedback yet, hope to meet and follow up with their staff.
11:55 I think testing has gone well. Talk about prototypes: No consumer ready devices. Bench test equipment going in. Twist some knobs, can give you some readings. Apparently Microsoft’s device overheated. No big deal — has nothing to do with actual consumer device. From what we’re hearing, testing is going OK. Want to see it go on without too many politics. If approved, whole second process for device manufacturers to make actual consumer devices go through wringer.
11:54 Other companies include Microsoft, Dell, Phillips, Motorola. Common view about filing MOT made last fall. Might see some positive views out of them. We view coalition as a ‘big tent’.
11:53 What’s it for? Just high-speed Internet? Video on demand? Any television uses for it? A lot of uses certainly possible here — broadcasters made filings talking about similar concept, using white spaces for one way or two way video services. Shares a lot of same capabilities of 700 MHz spectrum.
11:50 Lots of devices and business models: People who have spectrum available to them might auction it off to devices. Microsoft, Phillips, all have different ideas. Mesh network, hybrid approach, fixed approach: Phillips looking at white spaces to move vast amount of devices around the home. Large untapped spectrum, lots of people itching to use it. Get outside that box, new kinds of devices, Internet-capable, internet-friendly. Think this could happen within years. Propogation so good you could blanket rural area with more than adequate bandwidth to get people on Internet, etc.
11:49 Beacon would have to be an added technology to wireless mic. Cheap, off-the-shelf type of technology.
11:48 Waiting for auction to close to talk about white spaces? Based at all on auction outcome? Can’t talk about auction. Proposal not linked to 700 MHz situation. Next Thursday at 6:01 ET, do hope to talk more about involvement in the auction.
11:45 Expect other members of coalition to support your proposal? Absolutely. We’ve been talking to each of member organisations. We think great potential is lots of business models, technologies.
11:44 Submitting prototype to FCC? At this point don’t have current plans to submit prototype/test equipment. Others submitting devices. Google did demo to FCC engineers in December, may put additional data into the record, but no current plans to put device into the record.
11:43 Q&A begins.
11:42 Tried in filing today to be specific and constructive. Should not be government’s role to keep status quo going. No product should come to market unless FCC can guarantee it won’t interfere. We at Google enjoy TV and live entertainment as much as the next person, and wouldn’t back something unless we were sure it wouldn’t interfere. No FUD!
11:40 Spectrum sensing is being used to protect military equipment from interference. Spectrum sensing is viable! In addition to spectrum sensing, asking commission to think about two Motorola ideas: Geolocation to protect broadcast signals, beacons to protect microphones. Device won’t use a channel until it’s gotten permission to use it. Wouldn’t transmit near wireless microphones, which would transmit beacon. Safe harbor in channels 36-38 for microphones, medical telemetry devices, etc.
11:39 Not trying to become a wireless carrier. Want decentralized wireless devices, etc. Strong believer in spectrum sensing technologies.
11:38 Could be used for multiple technologies and business models. Open access, of course! Google happy to provide technical support, including intellectual property, design, databases, etc.
11:37 In a few short years, imaging handheld devices capable of multiple gigabits per second. Tried to be more specific in filing today.
11:36 Google has spoken before about ‘tremendous, untapped’ potential of white spaces. These are unused, lots of bandwidth available, good spectrum. With advanced ‘signal processing’ techniques, can make data rates of gigabits per second. Cheap, unlimited bandwidth service improving every year. Faster, higher range “wi-fi on steroids.”
11:36 Can’t discuss FCC auction results until next Thursday because of anti-collusion rules.
11:34 Google has joined together with other companies, etc., to argue that ‘white spaces’ between TV stations should be opened up for unlicensed use. FCC in the middle of testing several pieces of equipment. We anticipate it will issue some rules later this year. Today we’re sharing a filing that we filed late Friday. Outlining Google’s vision, proposing enhanced spectrum protection proposal so no interference with TV signals, wireless microphones.
11:34 Call begins. Rick Whitt joins.
11:33 Music hold.
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