Feeds

TV giants lock horns with Microsoft and Google over white space wireless play

'God made those airwaves for us'

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

The heads of America's four largest television networks have joined forces to oppose a plan that would stream high-speed internet access over unused TV airwaves. And in doing so, they're taking aim at one of the great oddities of the modern tech industry: a partnership between Google and Microsoft.

A coalition of big-name tech companies - including Dell, HP, Intel, and Philips as well as Google and Microsoft - is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow the use of personal computing devices that transmit data over the country's television "white spaces" - portions of the TV spectrum that aren't used for broadcasting.

Local TV stations have already launched a public attack on the plan, claiming that white space devices will interfere with their signals, and now, the nationwide television networks that piggy-back on these stations are joining the fray.

This week, Broadcasting & Cable reports, the big wigs who control ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC sent a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, urging him to slap down Google, Microsoft, and the rest of the White Spaces Coalition. They even went so far as to say that white space devices will scar the American airwaves forever.

"As leaders in television broadcasting," wrote Walt Disney's Robert Iger, CBS's Leslie Moonves, News Corp.'s Peter Cherin, and NBC Universal's Jeffery Zucker, "we are writing to express our concern over placing personal and portable unlicensed devices in the digital television band. As you know, current proposals based on 'sensing' to avoid interference could cause permanent damage to over-the-air digital television reception."

Ed Thomas, a former FCC chief engineer who represents the White Spaces Coalition, calls this nothing more than "a scare campaign." "It lacks a scientific base," he told The Reg. "What they're trying to do is create a political environment where science doesn't prevail, and I think that's appalling."

Better than WiFi

Think of the white space proposal as WiFi on some serious steroids. Like WiFi, the technology would use unlicensed airwaves, so any company and any individual could buy devices off-the-shelf and grab some wireless bandwidth.

But the spectrum in question affords better propagation than WiFi, and the coalition's system would leverage mesh networking principles to cover even wider areas. In essence, internet access from one network gateway could be bounced from house to house to house.

"These devices could be used for distributing data inside the home, but they could also be used for broadband internet access, especially in rural areas," said Thomas, who represents the White Spaces Coalition through the DC law firm Harris, Wiltshire, and Grannis.

Plus, this technology would provide much higher speeds than WiFi. "If you want to pipe digital movies and high-fidelity music around your home, the odds are high that speeds would be close to 100Mbps with this technology," Thomas said, "though if you're grabbing broadband access from two or three or four miles away, sharing it with others in your area, the odds are speeds will be a bit lower."

The rub is that TV white spaces are at different frequencies in different geographical locations. In New York, for instance, channel 4 is used by a TV station and channel 6 is white space. But in Connecticut, channel 4 is a white space and channel 6 is used for TV.

Devices must be smart enough to automatically detect where the white spaces are before they start transmitting. "You have to know where the TV guys are," Thomas explained. "There are many, many constraints on what you can do, because you have to avoid interference."

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Canadian ISP Shaw falls over with 'routing' sickness
How sure are you of cloud computing now?
Don't call it throttling: Ericsson 'priority' tech gives users their own slice of spectrum
Actually it's a nifty trick - at least you'll pay for what you get
Three floats Jolla in Hong Kong: Says Sailfish is '3rd option'
Network throws hat into ring with Linux-powered handsets
Fifteen zero days found in hacker router comp romp
Four routers rooted in SOHOpelessly Broken challenge
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
PwC says US biz lagging in Internet of Things
Grass is greener in Asia, say the sensors
Ofcom sees RISE OF THE MACHINE-to-machine cell comms
Study spots 9% growth in IoT m2m mobile data connections
O2 vs Vodafone: Mobe firms grab for GCHQ, gov.uk security badge
No, the spooks love US best, say rival firms
Ancient pager tech SMS: It works, it's fab, but wow, get a load of that incoming SPAM
Networks' main issue: they don't know how it works, says expert
Trans-Pacific: Google spaffs cash on FAST undersea packet-flinging
One of 6 backers for new 60 Tbps cable to hook US to Japan
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.