FCC opens bridge to uncertain white space future


The Federal Communications Commission has named Spectrum Bridge Inc. as the official provider of a white space database that will point innovators to the spectrum holes between television stations that can be used for the operation of their devices. Now the question will be to see just how much space will be available if channel repacking and spectrum auctions come into play.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, “With today’s approval of the first TV white spaces database and device, we are taking an important step towards enabling a new wave of wireless innovation. Unleashing white spaces spectrum has the potential to exceed even the many billions of dollars in economic benefit from Wi-Fi, the last significant release of unlicensed spectrum, and drive private investment and job creation.”

The Office of Engineering and Technology was the FCC branch approving Spectrum Bridge, and it also named Koos Technical Services, Inc. as the first product provider to operate in the space. Operations may begin as of 1/26/12, and initial operations will be limited to Wilmington NC and surrounding areas.

OET said, “Unused spectrum between TV stations – known as ‘white spaces’ – represents a valuable opportunity for provision of broadband data services in our changing wireless landscape. This unused TV spectrum provides a major new platform for innovation and delivery of service, with potential for both research and commercial applications. Development of unlicensed radio transmitting devices has already led to a wave of new consumer technologies, including Wi-Fi and other innovations like digital cordless phones and in-home video distribution systems that have generated billions of dollars of economic growth. This new technology will build on that track record and provide even more benefits to the U.S. economy.”

RBR-TVBR observation: The debate over whether to allow white space devices was hot in the run-up to the digital transition, but already it seems like a quaint controversy from an earlier antiquated era. Television stations face the prospect of being squeezed in the current spectrum battle, and white spaces figure to be squeezed to the point of scarcity.

Democrats, particularly Silicon Valley Democrats like House Communications Subcommittee Ranking Member Anna Eshoo (D-CA), think that spectrum should be reserved as a guaranteed white space area to allow companies large and small to experiment and innovate with untold potential economic benefits.

Republicans generally see a white space set-aside as leaving auction money on the table, and would rather license it to whichever wireless company that is willing to pay for it, and let that company provide untold economic benefit.