Google Unveils Plans for Wi-Fi on Steroids
Move comes on the heels of its losing bid in the wireless spectrum auction.
Google on Monday unveiled plans for a new generation of wireless devices to operate on soon-to-be-vacant television airwaves, and sought to alleviate fears that this might interfere with TV broadcasts or wireless microphones.
In comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission, the Internet leader outlined plans for low-power devices that use local wireless airwaves to access the "white space" between television channels. A Google executive called the plan "Wi-Fi 2.0 or Wi-Fi on steroids."
"The airwaves can provide huge economic and social gains if used more efficiently ...," Google said in the comments.
Rick Whitt, Google's Washington telecom and media counsel, said this class of Wi-Fi devices could eventually offer data transmission speeds of billions of bits per second -- far faster than the millions of bits per second available on most current broadband networks. Consumers could watch movies on wireless devices and do other things that are currently difficult on slower networks.
The white-space airwaves could become available in February 2009, when TV broadcasters switch from analog to digital signals. Whitt said he expects devices using white-space spectrum could be available by the end of 2009.
Shares of Google surged $27.36, or 6.3 percent, to $460.91 amid a sharp rise in U.S. stock markets. The Nasdaq composite index was up 3.3 percent.
Google sees the white-space spectrum as a natural place to operate a new class of phones and wireless devices based on Android, Google's software that a variety of major equipment makers plan to use to build Internet-ready phones.
The Silicon Valley company also said that, in general, it stands to benefit whenever consumers have easier access to the Internet. Google's primary business is selling online ads as people perform Web searches.
The FCC filing comes less than two weeks after Bill Gates, co-founder of Google rival Microsoft, urged the agency to free up the white-space spectrum so it could be used to expand access of wireless broadband.
Google and Microsoft are part of a coalition of technology companies that has been lobbying the FCC to allow unlicensed use of white-space spectrum.
The group also includes Dell, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and the north American unit of Philips Electronics.
The idea is opposed by U.S. broadcasters and makers of wireless microphones, who fear the devices would cause interference.
The FCC currently is testing equipment to see if the white-space spectrum can be used without interfering with television broadcasts.
In a compromise designed to mollify some interest groups opposed to expanding use of white-space spectrum, Google proposed a "safe harbor" on channels 36-38 of the freed-up analog TV spectrum for exclusive use by wireless microphones, along with medical telemetry and radio astronomy devices. In effect, no white-space devices could use these channels.
Google said "spectrum-sensing technologies" could be used that would automatically check to see whether a channel was open before using it, thereby avoiding interference with other devices. It said such technology is already being used by the U.S. military.
Google said the enhancements "will eliminate any remaining legitimate concerns about the merits of using the white space for unlicensed personal/portable devices."
Google also said it would provide free technical assistance to other companies seeking to take advantage of white-space airwaves. This would include having Google help to maintain "open geo databases" of local channels for use by any device certified to use the spectrum.
A proposal being studied by the FCC would create two categories of users for the airwaves: one for low-power, personal, portable devices, and a second group for fixed commercial operations.
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