FCC approves companies to manage white spaces databases

The FCC has granted nine companies, including Google, the opportunity to manage databases that will coordinate the usage of white spaces for high-speed wireless broadband networking.

The other eight companies selected as white spaces database operators are Comsearch, Frequency Finder, KB Enterprises and LS Telcom (jointly), Key Bridge Global, Neustar, Spectrum Bridge, Telcordia Technologies and WSdb.

“Today we’re one step closer to a world with ‘super WiFi,’” a spokesman for Google said after the FCC’s approval. Google has long backed the use of the spectrum between the frequencies used for TV broadcasts as a way to deliver affordable high-speed wireless broadband.

Larry Page, Google’s once and future CEO (he will regain the title when Eric Schmidt steps aside in April), spoke on the value of white spaces during an event at the New America Foundation in May, 2008.

“The use that we can make of this spectrum when we have open innovation is quite amazing,” he said.

Making use of white spaces, however, will require coordination so upcoming TV band wireless networking devices don’t interfere with licensed broadcast TV stations. The databases are supposed to tell TV band devices which TV frequencies are vacant and available for use.

The FCC has required a series of mandatory workshops to ensure that database operators can comply with FCC rules and tests of the databases themselves.

In February 2009, the NAB and the Association for Maximum Service Television filed a lawsuit to block the FCC’s plan, based on concerns that white space usage will cause interference for broadcasters. That case has yet to be resolved.

“The exclusive use of database techniques for interference control is largely uncharted territory in spectrum regulation and full of practical challenges,” Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of communications for the NAB, told InformationWeek. “It’s critical that the transition of this technique from theory to practice doesn’t result in interference that prevents consumers from receiving free TV broadcasts.”