The Federal Communications Commission today took steps to free up vacant airwaves between TV channels -- called "white spaces" -- to unleash a host of new technologies, such as "super Wi-Fi," and other applications.
This is the first significant block of spectrum made available for unlicensed use in more than 20 years.
TV white space spectrum is considered prime real estate because its signals travel well, making it ideally suited for mobile wireless devices. Unlocking this spectrum will open the doors for new industries to arise, create American jobs, and fuel new investment and innovation.
The first major application would be "super Wi-Fi," a Wi-Fi with longer range, faster speeds, and more reliable connections.
The Second Memorandum Opinion and Order (Second MO&O) adopted today resolves numerous legal and technical issues. Notably, the Order eliminates the requirement that TV bands devices that incorporate geo-location and database access must also include sensing technology to detect the signals of TV stations and low-power auxiliary service stations (wireless microphones). It also requires wireless microphone users who seek to register in the TV bands databases to certify that they will use all available channels from 7 through 51 prior to requesting registration. Requests to register in the database will be public, thus allowing interested parties to weigh in on any given request. Google is among the companies vying to manage the database.
Television networks and wireless microphone users had protested that allowing use of "white spaces" would lead to interference with their signals.
The Commission said that it was taking steps to ensure that incumbent services are protected from interference from the use of white spaces in various ways. In particular, today?s Order reserves two vacant UHF channels for wireless microphones and other low power auxiliary service devices in all areas of the country. It also maintains a reasonable separation distance between TV White Space device and wireless microphone usage permitted to be registered in the database.
"As more people access information via mobile and other intelligent devices, additional strain is being put on existing wireless networks," said Craig Mundie, Microsoft?s Chief Research and Strategy Officer, commenting on the FCC's decision. "Microsoft appreciates the hard work by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and the other FCC Commissioners and Congress leading up to this vote. Their action will deliver greater broadband connectivity to consumers, and promote growth and investment in a new generation of wireless broadband technologies.
"With this vote, the commission is taking a forward-looking view of how to optimize spectrum allocation by capitalizing on evolving technologies. As a result, technology companies will be able to develop new applications that tap into the potential of white spaces networks. On Microsoft?s own campus in Redmond, Wash. a prototype ?White-Fi? system delivers more economical broadband Internet access for employees traveling between buildings on the campus. The FCC?s decision will create opportunities for American companies to remain at the forefront of technological innovation."