TV white space for mobile: It's a go

* FCC approves use of unused TV spectrum for unlicensed mobile access

The Federal Communications Commission has unanimously approved the use of license-exempt vacant airwaves between TV channels -- called "white spaces" -- to support new wireless applications. This is the first significant block of spectrum made available for unlicensed use in more than 20 years.

TV white space spectrum signals travel well, making it well suited for mobile wireless devices. Many of the TV frequency bands have been vacated by TV's move to digital, so, in a country hungry for wireless resources, it was proposed that this spectrum get redirected to mobile access use.

Operators get creative due to spectrum crunch

The general vibe over the decision to move forward was upbeat on both sides of the political aisle, because it's hoped that the move will spur wireless innovation and possibly provide new types of competition to licensed mobile broadband services.

The National Association of Broadcasters remained fairly tightlipped over the decision, however. The white space decision has been debated since 2008, because NAB feared interference with TV's remaining broadcast bands.

To address those fears, the FCC has set rules for spectrum use. Among them is a requirement that white space devices consult a frequently updated geolocation database and dynamically move transmissions to open spectra to avoid interference with nearby TV broadcasts or wireless microphones. The FCC's approved Second Memorandum Opinion and Order sets aside two unused UHF frequencies nationwide for the use of microphones and other low power auxiliary service devices.

Still to be ironed out is a decision about the entity that will operate the database.

The FCC has already granted experimental licenses to cities in North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and elsewhere that are testing various technologies in the spectrum. These trials have covered different uses, such as hot zones for Internet access, smart grid, water quality control and healthcare applications.

Can't wait for the next chapter.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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