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Google flaunts white space wireless magic

'This is not Russian Roulette'

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Google is running its very own "white space" tests, as it continues to push a master plan to stream high-speed internet access over unused television airwaves.

As part of the White Space Coalition, Google is one of the big-name high-tech outfits urging the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to approve the use of personal computing devices that transmit data over television "white spaces" - portions of the TV spectrum that aren't used for broadcasting. Others include Dell, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Philips. That's right: Google and Microsoft are actually partners on this venture.

Previously, Microsoft and Philips took the lead on the coalition's white space tests. But with a recent letter to FCC, Google has let the world know it's doing some testing of its own.

On December 4, according to the letter, the Mountain View, CA outfit met several engineers in the FCC's office of engineering and technology, demonstrating tests involving two separate white space technologies. "In both cases, these test results demonstrate that digital televisions (DTV) and wireless microphones can be amply protected from harmful interference by unlicensed personal/portable devices, using reasonable power levels and sensing thresholds."

You see, local TV stations have opposed the white space plan, arguing that computing devices would mess with their signals. The National Association of Broadcasters - the trade association that serves more than 8,300 local radio and television stations - actually launched a newspaper and TV ad campaign that badmouthed the likes of Microsoft and Google. In one television ad, a gray-haired biddy looks perplexed as interference hits while she's trying to watch an American football game.

Earlier this year, a Microsoft white space prototype failed the FCC's tests, and the NAB took this as proof that Microsoft and the gang were dead set on destroying American television. "By continuing to press its self-serving agenda, Microsoft is playing Russian Roulette with America's access to interference-free TV reception," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton.

Meanwhile, Microsoft insisted that its prototype was broken, and the FCC has committed to additional testing.

Google did not respond to our requests from comment on its new tests, and Ed Thomas, the former FCC head of engineering that represents the white space coalition, referred most of our questions to the Mountain Viewers. but Thomas did say that Google's news indicates how very serious the company is about white space devices.

"Very, very simply, the fact that Google has a prototype indicates their commitment to this project," he told us. "You don't show up on Tuesday, pray for a prototype, and get it on Wednesday." ®

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