FCC approves Google's 'white space' database operation

The database will allow unlicensed TV broadcast spectrum to be used for wireless broadband.

The Federal Communications Commission has approved Google's plan to operate a database that would allow unlicensed TV broadcast spectrum to be used for wireless broadband and shared among many users.

Google, which was granted commission approval on Friday, is the latest company to complete the FCC's 45-day testing phase. Spectrum Bridge and Telcordia completed their trials, and there are another 10 companies, including Microsoft, which are working on similar databases. The new database will keep track of the TV broadcast frequencies in use so that wireless broadband devices can take advantage of the unlicensed space on the spectrum, also called "white space."

In the U.S., the FCC has been working to free up spectrum for wireless carriers, which complain they lack adequate available spectrum to keep up with market demand for data services. The FCC approved new rules in 2010 for using unlicensed white space that included establishing databases to track clear frequencies and ensure that devices do not interfere with existing broadcast TV license holders. The databases contain information supplied by the FCC.

However, TV broadcasters have resisted the idea of unlicensed use, worried that allowing others to use white space, which is very close to the frequencies they occupy, could cause interference. What Google and others developing this database technology hope to show is that it is possible to share white space without creating interference.

The Web giant announced in March that it had launched a trial program that would tap white spaces to provide wireless broadband to 10 rural schools in South Africa.

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About the author

Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. Before joining CNET News in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.

 

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