700MHz Battle Begins

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Google and Frontline face an uphill battle in the spectrum sweepstakes says GigOm’s Paul Kapustka.

Former FCC chairman Reed Hundt said the lobbying battle won’t really start in earnest until the big dogs, namely Verizon and AT&T, file their comments.

Hundt is one of the principals behind Frontline Wireless, a prospective nationwide wireless-services provider who like Google and other players is seeking a beneficial tweak to the auction rules. But as the politically savvy Hundt notes, “at any given moment, Verizon could have 70 lobbyists at the FCC,” he said. “So the odds are really still against any upstart like us.”

According to documents filed with the FCC, {Frontline’s] Doerr met with FCC chairman Kevin Martin during Martin’s recent visit to Silicon Valley, to champion Frontline’s cause. Martin, who also toured Google during his visit, gave praise to Frontline’s proposal at the last open FCC meeting, touting it as a possible option for inclusion in the final rulemaking.

And Google, which recently hired MCI lobbying veteran Rick Whitt to lead the search giant’s D.C. activities, is showing increased interest and involvement in regulatory and legislative issues (FCC filing pdf). Perhaps they are finally realizing that not all the battles in broadband are won at the browser level.

Meanwhile, Arstechnica says a “new superfast wireless broadband device prototype” was submitted to FCC for using television spectrum beneath the 700 MHz band – in the so-called “white spaces” – the unused television channels. Devices using those range of frequencies may be either licensed or (more likely), unlicensed.

The newest white space prototype is manufactured by Philips Electronics of North America and consists of a TV tuner, a digital processing board, and a PC which provides the UI, control, and signal processing. It’s proof-of-concept hardware intended to demonstrate that it’s possible to sense the presence of TV signals and transmit wireless IP data in a way that does not interfere with TV.

“Like the personal/portable prototype devices previously submitted by Microsoft on the Coalition’s behalf, the Philips prototype is designed to demonstrate that operating parameters set forth by the Coalition… will provide incumbent licensees in the television bands with the interference protection to which they are entitled,” reads the FCC filing.

The White Space Coalition is comprised of Dell, EarthLink, Google, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Philips Electronics. The FCC should conclude its testing of the white space broadband prototypes in July and the first rules governing the use of the spectrum by wireless broadband devices should be released in October 2007. Once that happens, the IEEE will likely begin the work of standardizing the tech. If all goes as planned, white space broadband service could begin in the US as soon as February 2009.

The Arstechnica article has some factual errors — “White space devices could use the so-called white space in the current analog television spectrum (2MHz to 698MHz) to deliver wireless broadband service”. In reality, television broadcasts from 54MHZ to 698MHz in the United States and many of those frequencies are not available for “white space” devices.

The IEEE 802.22 standards group has been assigned to develop a standard that avoids interference to broadcasters. It uses COFDMA, similar to Mobile WiMAX, on a 6 MHz channel and looks for possible licensed users in the vicinity, using both electronic monitoring and location information.

According to Arstechnica, “Former FCC chief engineer Edmond Thomas (and current technology policy advisor for the law firm of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, which is representing the Coalition) told Ars that he believes white space broadband could deliver download speeds of up to 80Mbps, which would make it extremely competitive with fiber-to-the-premises solutions like Verizon’s FiOS networks”.

That also seems a stretch. Mobile WiMAX, using wider 10 MHz channels, maxes out about 25 MHz. Must be some kind of alien technology. The unlicensed 700 MHz band might come in handy for the One Laptop project, but it’s still exclusively a United States thing. It’s an example of U.S. leadership.

Related Dailywireless stories on 700 MHz include; AT&T “Open” to 700MHz — Not, Martin: Sharing is Good, Harold Feld on 700MHz, FCC Indecisive on 700MHz, FCC Decides on 700MHz Rules Today, Small Ops Squeezed Out of 700MHz?, General Dynamics Wins IWN Contract, Nextwave Buys IP-Wireless, Consumers to FCC: 700MHz Democracy Now!, Frontline Files 700MHz Plan with FCC, 700MHz in 10 Steps, National Broadband: Fee & Free, FCC to Rural Users: 700MHz is the Ticket and Oregon’s $500 Million Statewide Wireless Network.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007 at 10:28 am .

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