Monday, December 31, 2007

Google: I am in your White Spaces

Google's co-founder Larry Page was quoted in Fortune magazine's Techland blog in reference to the 700 MHz spectrum auction:
"I don’t think we feel like there is a desperate need for us to have to bid to win or anything like that," Page told analysts during the company’s quarterly earnings call last month. "We have many, many different options available to us as a company in terms of spectrum."

One of these "many different options" for Google is surely white spaces, the portions of spectrum between the TV channels. Google, along with Microsoft, Intel, HP, Earthlink, Dell, etc., is part of the Wireless Innovation Alliance (also known as the White Spaces Coalition), which is working hard to have the white spaces freed up for use. Right now, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not allow this.

In mid-2007, Microsoft had sent FCC prototype White Space Devices (WSDs) to test the effective use of the white spaces spectrum to prove that such use would not affect existing TV channel broadcasts. The FCC concluded that the WSD testing failed. That was not FCC's most shining moment because it tested a defective device and did not bother to test the backup device Microsoft had sent.

More recently in early Dec 2007, the Google Public Policy blog announced that Google "met last week with some of the FCC's engineers and presented encouraging test results based on ongoing trials of wireless technologies" related to the white spaces.

Clearly, Google is very committed to opening up new channels for Internet access, wireless channels in particular. Other young tech companies (as opposed to old telecom companies) are also very much interested in seeing such channels open up. It is going to be very hard to stop them. They will succeed sooner or later.

The day is not very far off when we will have free wireless Internet access in most parts of the human-populated world, just as we have free TV broadcasts today. This does not mean paid Internet service will go away. Just like we have paid premium-content TV channels now, we will also have paid premium-speed (read very high speed) Internet access as well. But what passes for broadband speeds in most of the US today, will be available wirelessly, for free, in the not too distant future.

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