November 4th has been marked as the day when the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) puts on vote the issue of opening up the white space spectrum. This means making the spectrum from 54 to 698 MHz available for use in products that could potentially lead to high speed internet access over a wide range of hardware (even for free).
The spectrum becomes available once the transition from analog to digital broadcasts for TV Stations is completed in US (Deadline is February 2009). The companies pushing for usage of the White Space spectrum include Microsoft, Google, Dell, HP, Intel, Philips, Earthlink, and Samsung Electro-Mechanics ( The White Space Coalition ). Technically, the White Space refers to unused frequencies, buffers between licensed broadcast channels. The devices operating in this would need to sense for presence of other transmissions and only communicate over the free channels to prevent interference. And this is where the bone of contention lies. The National Association of Broadcasters, telecommunication companies and media groups contend that opening up the airwaves would cause interference with devices such as cell-phones and wireless microphones.
Devices based on the white space spectrum could communicate over wireless broadband that is accessible over long distances and penetrates obstacles.
An excerpt from ZDNet:
“The 700MHz spectrum is not enough to compete against a service like Verizon’s Fios,” said Harold Feld, senior vice president of public-interest nonprofit Media Access Project, in reference to Verizon Communications’ high-capacity network featuring fiber-optic connections to the home. “It’s only 62MHz of spectrum. So you’re going to need a lot more. That’s why it’s important to provide access to licensed as well as unlicensed spectrum.”
Rural areas are to benefit most from usage of this spectrum as the airwaves are less densely used. For companies like Google and Microsoft, the spectrum means obvious results in more usage of Internet ( More eyeballs = more potential revenue sources ). For hardware companies its an opportunity to innovate beyond the standard cellphones and laptops but make available niche devices complemented with sensors accessible over the network. And for users, it will open the floodgates to devices tailored to high speed internet access at affordable rates.