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Nov 4 results: FCC opens path

On November 4 the FCC cleared the way for the use of TV channel guard bands for I’net access. As TV moves from analog to digital, the need for an empty space, a guard band, between channels to prevent them from interfering with each other is reduced. Getting more TV in less spectrum is the promise of digital TV and this FCC action is an attempt to utilize that promise. It is a second step after auctioning off the upper UHF channels (51 to 80) freed up in the planned transition.

The idea on this use of the guard bands for I’net access is that, while the equipment must still be FCC approved, transmissions do not need a license. There will have to be provision to make sure the equipment does not interfere with nearby digital TV transmissions. This will likely mostly depend upon a location database more than it will signal sensing.

A key feature of using this part of the spectrum is that it is at a lower frequency than the traditional 2.4 GHz WiFi which means it will suffer less attenuation getting into and out of buildings and other solid objects. It will tend to have a longer range with some trade-off for lower data rates.

Joshua Breitbart has a good description in Open the airwaves and the sky’s the limit and why the ‘free is good’ folks are very happy.

Wireless access is not a full replacement for wired connections, but it is a much cheaper way to bring people the Internet. Mobile phones are far more widespread than in-home computers with broadband connections, especially among the groups currently marginalized from the Internet. …

Once you don’t have to rely on big, corporate license-holders to get a connection, you can start to invent entirely new devices and applications. The FCC used the same kind of open platform for innovation with the 2.4 gigahertz band. That led to an astounding array of inventions — cordless phones, remote controls, microwave ovens, and wi-fi routers — all sharing one tiny piece of the airwaves.

Google has been one the primary backers of this idea. Catherine Holahan described their effort in Business Week’s Google’s Plans for the Space Between Your TV Channels

Companies such as Clearwire are providing I’net service similar to that envisioned by Google. This FCC action will make that type of service easier to implement over more area.