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Google Lobbies for ‘White Space’ Access

Google is one of several companies, including Microsoft, pushing to open up “unused” TV channels, termed “white space”, to unlicensed wireless devices. Google co-founder Larry Page was in Washington, D.C. yesterday trying to gather support for Google’s white space proposals.

As broadcasters have pointed out, after many FCC tests the proponents of opening TV spectrum to unlicensed devices have yet to show they can reliably sense whether a channel is in use. Systems such as the ones proposed by Google and Motorola would get around this problem by using geolocation and a database to identify channels in use. Unfortunately, in larger markets there are few vacant channels that are not adjacent to existing TV channels. If you put a white space device in an apartment or condominium next to someone using a preamplified indoor antenna it’s likely to wipe-out reception of one or more channels.

The New America Foundation posted an interview with Larry Page conducted Thursday morning at Google Unwired. In it he compares TV white space with “Wi-Fi on steroids.” He said TV white space has more range and can provide access more cheaply, adding that in rural areas, someone could even use their TV antenna to connect to access points up to three miles away.

In the interview, Page explained that by using geolocation technology TV reception can be protected. In addition, he said white space devices would have to be approved by the FCC, just as Blackberry units are approved now, and would have to show they won’t create interference before they could be sold.

The New America Foundation claims broadcasters are opposed to innovation. It was one of the first organizations promoting unlicensed use of TV spectrum. Google Unwired has links to other New America Foundation papers on wireless technology.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.