FCC says yes to white spaces

As expected, the FCC voted unanimously yesterday to allow use of so-called "white spaces" spectrum

, opening up what promises to be a vibrant marketplace for broadband wireless devices. Could new feature-rich devices from proponents Google, Microsoft and Motorola be far behind?

The FCC voted to let carriers and other vendors deploy devices in unlicensed white spaces spectrum at up to 100 milliwats, and up to 40 milliwats on white space spectrum adjacent to TV channels. The upside is that unlike typical Wi-Fi hotspots, white spaces will support higher bandwidth for faster downloads over longer distances. It also is less prone to interference from walls and other obstacles, making them more robust than WiFi as well. As Google founder Larry Page said in his blog commending the decision:

"I've always thought that there are a lot of really incredible things that engineers and entrepreneurs can do with this spectrum. We will soon have "Wi-Fi on steroids," since these spectrum signals have much longer range than today's Wi-Fi technology and broadband access can be spread using fewer base stations resulting in better coverage at lower cost."

Because the spectrum is unlicensed, it doesn't require a huge cash investment up front, removing a competitive barrier for wireless start-ups. And that's something that's sure to warm Page's heart as well, since Google has long been rumored to be interested in providing wireless services. So while Dolly Parton and other opponents of the move are probably disappointed, the vote is all good for Google.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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