Microsoft, Google hope this round goes better than the last one...
The FCC has announced
(pdf) that the agency will be conducting another round of "White Space"
broadband testing starting January 24. A six-partner coalition (including Microsoft, Google and Dell) named the Wireless Innovation Alliance
wants to use the so-called "white space" spectrum -- partially freed by the migration to digital television -- to offer un-served consumers Internet access via the airwaves.
They submitted a device for testing to the FCC last year, but tests showed the device was unable to play nice
(pdf) with nearby wireless signals.
This report determined that the sample prototype White Space Devices submitted to the Commission for initial evaluation do not consistently sense or detect TV broadcast or wireless microphone signals. Our tests also found that the transmitter in the prototype device is capable of causing interference to TV broadcasting and wireless microphones. However, several features that are contemplated as possible options to minimize the interference potential of WSDs, such as dynamic power control and adjustment of power levels based on signal levels in adjacent bands, are not implemented in the prototype devices that were provided. Given these results, further testing of these devices was not deemed appropriate at this time.
Shortly after the test, the coalition stated that their prototype malfunctioned, and that they do have a working model. Groups like the National Association of Broadcasters, likely feeling threatened by the new potential broadcast capabilities of the technology, have been very vocal
opponents of the plan, insisting to anyone who'll listen that the devices will create wireless armageddon.
The Wireless Innovation Alliance last week fired back with a letter
essentially urging the NAB to shut up and let the FCC do its job. A recent study
(pdf) by the coalition argued that by 2009, every one of the nation's 210 TV markets will have 15 to 40 unassigned, vacant and unused channels. They insist such unused white space "could deliver Internet access to every American household for as little as $10 a month, by some estimates."
A more complete plan for the FCC's upcoming tests can be found here
in pdf format.