U.S. regulator paves way for new mobile devices
* FCC votes to open unused spectrum to unlicensed devices
* Agency tries to address broadcasters' concerns
* New devices could be on market in 1-1/2 to 2 years
By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON, Sept 23 (Reuters) - U.S. regulators paved the way on Thursday for new, faster wireless devices by opening unused television airwaves for mobile broadband use.
Device makers such as Dell Inc (DELL.O), Nokia (NOK1V.HE) and Motorola Inc MOT.N stand to profit from the Federal Communications Commission's unanimous vote to allow unlicensed wireless devices to operate on this unused spectrum.
It is the FCC's first significant release of unlicensed spectrum in 25 years, said Chairman Julius Genachowski.
"This new unlicensed spectrum will be a powerful platform for innovation as we've seen time and time again when we unleash American ingenuity, great things happen," he said.
The empty airwaves, called "white spaces," were freed up during the digital transition in 2009, and consist of the spaces between existing broadcast channels.
They allow signals to travel faster, penetrate walls more easily and cover larger geographical areas than current spectrum used for WiFi.
Tech companies have lobbied to deploy a new, super WiFi system using these airwaves that would boost Internet speeds in homes, businesses, schools and municipalities, and improve connectivity for mobile devices.
Broadcasters feared such use could interfere with their channels, particularly those used to operate wireless microphones that rely on for news reporting.
The FCC clarified conditions for use of the unlicensed spectrum to mitigate these problems, including requiring white spaces devices to get access to a database to determine what spectrum is available at a particular location.
The agency also said two TV channels would be reserved for wireless microphones in each market, allowing 12 to 16 microphones to operate without any interference. Need for more capacity would be handled on a case-by-case basis where broadcasters can request more spectrum for large events like major sporting events.
The FCC added that broadcasters could best meet the need for increased capacity for wireless microphones by using more efficient technology rather than requesting more spectrum.
Successful commercialization of white spaces devices is expected to take at least a year and a half to two years as network operators, chip vendors and device manufacturers develop industry standards.
Genachowski cited an analyst's estimate that white spaces devices could become a more than $7 billion industry. (Reporting by Jasmin Melvin. Editing by Robert MacMillan)
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