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White space backers see new devices in a year
October 16, 2008 / 8:55 PM / 9 years ago

White space backers see new devices in a year

<p>A journalist looks at her wireless Blackberry communication device on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 18, 2007. REUTERS/Jim Young</p>

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Opening unused U.S. television channels to wireless devices, an idea endorsed by communications regulators this week, could spark development of faster devices with features such as high-definition video within a year, backers said on Thursday.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission late on Wednesday released a highly-anticipated report backing the feasibility of opening up “white spaces” -- unused pockets of the spectrum. These airwaves will become available when U.S. broadcasters are required to move completely to digital television next year.

“The industry in general is all ready to gear up to put out devices as soon as possible,” said Monisha Ghosh, a researcher at Philips, which is developing products using the technology. “I’d estimate within a year you’d see a fair number of different applications.”

Philips, Motorola Inc, Google Inc, and Microsoft Corp are among the companies that want the unused spectrum for a new generation of wireless devices.

Other applications include what some experts call “Wi-Fi on steroids” -- faster, able to go farther, and more effective wireless networking in the home, including high definition video.

However, cable operators, broadcasters and wireless phone companies oppose such unlicensed use, arguing that it would create interference and other technical problems.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which represents the big networks like Walt Disney Co’s ABC and General Electric’s NBC, was still reviewing the 150-page report and did not have an immediate response to the report.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told reporters the report’s findings confirm that devices can be developed with limited interference to broadcast and cable television.

The five-member FCC will consider approving recommendations in the report at its next public meeting on November 4.

“The investment will occur immediately after an order issued by the FCC and it is looked at and people conclude, ‘gee there is an opportunity here to innovate’,” said Ed Thomas, a former chief engineer for the FCC’s Office of Engineering Technology and an adviser to companies developing products.

Consumer groups have generally embraced opening the spectrum to unlicensed use, similar to the way Wi-Fi already uses spectrum.

“Rural broadband is an excellent way to get connectivity in places that are hard to reach,” Ben White, policy director at the consumer group Free Press. “But it’s much more than that. It will reduce the cost of infrastructure so you can deploy a broadband product that is much cheaper.”

The FCC engineering report laid out results of several years of data collection, including field tests on Broadway in New York City and at FedEx Field in suburban Washington, D.C.

Editing by Tim Dobbyn

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