Much Like the Visual Artist, We Telecoms View 'White Space' as 'Negative Space'–in Our Earnings.
Progress does march on, doesn’t it? The Federal Communications Commission has only just announced technical specifications for its upcoming auction of the airwaves in the 700-megahertz band, the last piece of prime real estate left in the nation’s radio-frequency spectrum, and efforts to develop the next-generation wireless technology that could supplant it are already heating up.
The White Spaces Coalition, an alliance of companies developing a new wireless broadband service that taps into unused and unlicensed portions of the television spectrum known as white spaces, has
submitted another prototype device to the FCC for testing. Like its predecessor, this device (developed by Philips) is designed to demonstrate that white-space technology won’t muck up the airwaves for the telecom and cable companies who will almost certainly try to sandbag it on those very questionable grounds. “The telephone companies are terrified they’ll lose 40% of their wireless minutes, because you’ll be able to connect from work or home and bypass their wireless networks,” J.H. Snider, research director of the Wireless Future Program at the New America Foundation told MarketWatch recently. Which is funny, because the incumbent telecoms could have developed their own white-space technology if they’d wanted, they just didn’t bother because white spaces can’t be licensed in contiguous blocks, and apparently it’s far easier to add ridiculous modifiers to old technologies (Comcast PowerBoost!) than it is to develop new ones. Innovating is such a hassle.
Of course, now that the WSC–whose membership includes Google, Dell, EarthLink, H-P, Intel, Microsoft and Philips–is making its presence felt in Washington, it’s a different story. Anyway … the FCC plans to conclude its testing of the WSC’s white-space devices in July. If all goes as planned, and the incumbent telecoms don’t manage to undermine the effort, white-space broadband service could begin in the U.S. in February 2009.