Microsoft's White Spaces device moves forward

Another chapter has been written in the story of White Spaces vs. the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), reports

PC Magazine. On Jan. 24, the FCC began testing equipment that would allow ISPs and data service providers to access unused spectrum between digital broadcast channels - the so called "white spaces." (Broadcasters must complete a conversion from analog to digital by February 2009.) Broadcasters don't want to see innovative IT companies come up with new, possibly competing, services geared for this unused, unregulated spectrum.

Microsoft has developed a couple of prototype devices that use white spaces spectrum. Those devices, as prototypes often do, have had operational problems. But, Microsoft insists such problems are beside the point. The point is to see if usage of these devices interferes with digital broadcast signals on the regulated spectrum. NAB has been claiming white spaces devices would cause havoc on regular TV channels.

One of Microsoft's devices had power issues. The other appears to be working correctly. The FCC has said this week that it will focus its testing on the device that works correctly. So score one for the White Spaces guys. The PC Magazine story reports:

[Broadcasters] maintain that use of these white spaces for broadband service will result in reduced-quality digital TV viewing. Internet companies, meanwhile, view the use of the spectrum as a low-cost way of getting broadband service to underserved areas. "Completing a successful transition to digital television ought not be jeopardized by introducing risky technology that has proven to be unworkable," NAB's Wharton said.

NAB "tries real hard to paint this as a failure," said Ed Thomas, a Microsoft technology adviser and partner with the law firm of Harris, Wiltshire and Grannis. "But it's not a failure because the device is operating just fine, thank you very much."

Google is also interested in using White Spaces - so this is one area where the Big M and the Big G are actually on the same side (wearing the white hats). If/when White Spaces technologies are approved, the hats will come off and the two will compete as heavily here as they do in all other markets

In September, NAB vowed that it would launch a smear ad campaign vilifying the new White Spaces devices to cause FUD among consumers. That's a shame (or maybe its just plain shameful). But ultimately, NAB won't stop the new technologies made possible if the FCC approves White Spaces devices.  

Go to Microsoft Subnet for more news, blogs, opinion.

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