updated 01:05 pm EDT, Thu September 23, 2010
FCC OKs white spaces for long-range free wireless
The FCC today voted unanimously for using the white space frequencies between TV signals for unlicensed wireless access. The decision will let anyone develop devices that can operate at long range without having to get permission, giving them a form of 'super' Wi-Fi that could connect all of a user's devices even when well outside of the home. Dell, Google, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia and others have all expressed interest in the technology.
As conditions to opening up the unused space, the FCC said it would require a white space database that makes clear which frequencies are clear in a given area. To allay fears from broadcasters over interference with equipment, two TV channels will always be set aside to make sure as many as 16 wireless microphones can run without issue. Officials will have the option of clearing up extra frequency at times when more wireless TV hardware is needed, such as at a political rally or a sports match.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was confident the move would "unleash American ingenuity" by creating devices and services that hadn't been previously expected. Apart from handhelds and notebooks, it could lead to public wireless hotspots that need only one access point to cover an entire area or speed up rural Internet coverage by reaching small neighborhoods with wireless where they would have otherwise needed expensive lines to each house.
Practical use of white space may take as much as two years, since companies will both need to develop the initial chipsets and then have them integrated into finished products.