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Green light for White Spaces

The eagerly awaited White Spaces test report of the Office of Engineering and Technology of the FCC came out on Wednesday. The operational paragraph in the Executive Summary reads:

We are satisfied that spectrum sensing in combination with geo-location and database access techniques can be used to authorize equipment today under appropriate technical standards and that issues regarding future development and approval of any additional devices, including devices relying on sensing alone, can be addressed.

It is huge that the FCC leaves the door open to devices relying on sensing alone, because even Google had begun to back off from this idea.

As expected, the report is a little more enthusiastic about fixed wireless Internet access, the kind of use advocated by the IEEE 802.22 working group, than it is about the personal and portable use advocated by Microsoft and Google, among others:

It will… allow the development of new and innovative types of unlicensed devices that provide broadband data and other services for businesses and consumers without disrupting the incumbent television and other authorized services that operate in the TV bands. The Commission is considering whether to also allow “personal/portable” WSDs to operate in the TV spectrum.

I have been following the White Spaces saga for some time (click on the “White Spaces” tag below, and the links to the right of this column); it is a great idea in theory, and if it turns out to work as hoped, the concept could eventually be extended across much more spectrum, leading to a nirvana of effectively unlimited cheap wireless bandwidth.

The commissioners plan to discuss White Spaces at their November 4th meeting.

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