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QUALCOMM offers new proposal for licensed spectrum

As the FCC winds down a year of testing wireless Internet devices that use white spaces in spectrum, another proposal has surfaced from QUALCOMM, the wireless technology company.

Unlike companies such as Google, Microsoft, Philips, Dell and Motorola who want to use unlicensed devices on the spectrum, QUALCOMM has asked the FCC to auction and license the spectrum for Internet use. Licensing the spectrum will ensure wider coverage and protection from interference, and auctioning the spectrum would raise money for the government as well, the company argued.

“Unlicensed spectrum is great for short-range coverage, like WiFi in a house. But if you want to cover all of Washington, you need licensed spectrum in order to make sure a transmitter is protected from interference,” said Dean Brenner, QUALCOMM’s vice president for government affairs.

The NAB, the most vocal opponent of the unlicensed plan offered by the tech companies, said licensing the airwaves might protect broadcasts from static. “It’s certainly something worth exploring, rather than introducing potentially millions of TV viewers to unlicensed interference,” said Dennis Wharton, NAB’s executive vice president.

Rep. John D. Dingell, D-MI, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, sent a recent letter to FCC chairman Kevin Martin asking him to consider licensing some or the entire spectrum. Martin said the commission is analyzing QUALCOMM’s proposal to be sure the spectrum is used efficiently without impacting technologies already in use.

The FCC is also testing “beacon” technology designed to provide interference protection for wireless microphones, which currently use the spectrum without licensing for concerts and sports events.

The technology companies pushing for an unlicensed system say assigning licenses would limit the use of a service to customers of a single company, rather than being available to a variety of devices, such as those that connect to WiFi networks.