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Google Wants to Administer the First White Spaces Database

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Google proposes to FCC to become the administrator of a White Spaces Database containing geo-location information about devices using the free channels in the radio spectrum.

FCC decided in 2008 to open up the US radio white spaces for the public to be used for wireless broadband communication. White spaces are TV channels intentionally left unused to avoid interference between existing TV stations. Also, a large frequency spectrum (698-806 MHz) was freed by switching over from analog TV to the digital one. The empty space was immediately considered as useful for high speed wireless access for Internet users, providing speeds of over 80 Mbps for long range access and 400-800 Mbps for short range access.

FCC’s decision was contested by the TV broadcasters (Petition as PDF) who fear using the freed channels would interfered with TV signals and live singers who are using the same wave spaces.

One of the solutions to avoid interference was to use only devices that detect surrounding devices and their frequencies before starting to operate, but the solution was considered not safe enough to protect existing users. So, the idea of a White Spaces Database (WSDB) was introduced, a DB which would permit public access to register and discover devices and the frequencies used based on their location. This database would be used in conjunction with local device discovery to avoid contention between devices. A group was formed behind this idea including Comsearch, Dell, Google, HP, Microsoft, Motorola, and Neustar, and called the White Spaces Database Group (WSDG).

Google has supported the idea from the beginning including running an ad campaign called “Free the Airwaves.” Initially, they said:

We don't plan to become a database administrator ourselves, but do want to work with the FCC to make sure that a white spaces database gets up and running. We hope that this will unfold in a matter of months, not years.

It is unclear why Google has changed its mind since it has just filed a proposal with FCC to be named the creator and administrator of a WSDB:

Google is pleased to be able to continue to support the Commission’s efforts by submitting this
proposal to serve as administrator of a TV White Spaces database.

Google proposes the operation of a WSDB for at least 5 years, promising to “transfer to a successor entity the Database, the IP addresses and URLs used to access the Database, and the list of registered Fixed WSDs” in case they cannot live up to it. Google proposal does not limit the possibility of existing other such databases.

Google does not plan to “implement per-query fees”, but they are considering a per-device fee. No decision is made yet, but FCC allows a WSDB administrator to charge such fees.

The Wireless Innovation Alliance website related to the White Spaces Database Group is “suspended”. This could mean the WSDG is no longer active, each organization acting on their own.

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