'Bleeding' Signals with Google

Dennis Faas's picture

Google was the big loser in a recent bidding auction for the 700 MHz spectrum, which is being abandoned by television networks as the entire industry moves to digital format under Congressional order. Now, Google is trying to get the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow mobile devices to use what is called the 'white space' that exists between TV channels. (Source: slate.com)

While the regulatory board is reportedly intrigued by Google's proposal, many doubts remain. White space is used as a barrier between television channels to prevent signals from one broadcast interfering with another. To allay concerns about signal 'bleeding', Google has said it would be willing to share its "spectrum sensing" technology, which the company claims is able to prevent interference with other signals.

Broadcasters are not convinced that Google's technology will work. Unlike analog signals, a digital broadcast can freeze completely when experiencing interference, and networks are hesitant to take that kind of chance. In addition, live sporting events use white space for microphone signals, and professional and college sports leagues have raised serious concerns over the idea. (Source: wired.com)

Google, however, is confident the proposal can work. In its letter to the FCC, Google counsel Richard Whitt wrote, "Unlike other natural resources, there is no benefit to allowing this spectrum to lie fallow...the value of the TV white space to all Americans simply is too great to allow this unique opportunity to be blocked by unfounded fear, uncertainty, and doubt."

Access to signal space is becoming a hot issue for wireless companies. The 700 MHz auction was a highly competitive affair for carriers who are looking to use the signal band to provide faster service for mobile phones and other wireless devices. According to experts, Google's participation in the auction was more PR ploy than aggressive business move. The company submitted the minimum bid of $4.6 billion assuring it would not defeat the ultimate winners: AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

In an interview, analyst Blair Levin called Google the "happy loser" in the auction. The real motive was to bring attention to the search giant's cause of open source initiatives for mobile devices instead of the current system where customers handheld sets are tethered to a particular carrier.

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