Google suggests safe harbor for wireless mics

By , IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

Google has asked the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to carve out a
set of off-limits channels for proposed wireless devices that could operate
in unused television spectrum bands, in hopes that the proposal will help the
FCC approve the use of so-called "white space devices."

Google, in a filing to the FCC made late Friday, proposed that the FCC set
aside television channels 36 to 38 for wireless microphone use to avoid spectrum
interference. Users of wireless microphones and U.S. television stations have
been the main opponents to the push by Google, Microsoft, Dell and other tech
companies for the FCC to approve the use of new wireless devices in the unused
white spaces in the television spectrum.

Companies asking the FCC to open up the spectrum white spaces see new markets
for high-speed wireless devices, or "WiFi on steroids," in the language
of Richard Whitt, Google's Washington, D.C., telecom and media counsel.

The white spaces "offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide ubiquitous
wireless broadband access to all Americans," Google's filing said. "This
spectrum can provide robust infrastructure to serve the needs of under-deployed
rural areas, as well as first responders and others in the public safety community."

Google filed the proposal with the goal of moving the FCC's white spaces proceeding
to a "more constructive tone," Whitt said. "We believe it's unfortunate
that some have preferred the comfort of the past to the promise of the future,
and are using their influence to convince policymakers to protect legacy applications
at any and all costs."

The Google proposal also suggests that the FCC could require two spectrum-sensing
technologies called geo-location and beacons -- the low-cost beacons would have
to be added to wireless microphones -- to ensure against interference. That
portion of the Google filing borrows from a Motorola filing late last year.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has raised concerns that the
white space devices would cause interference with television signals. Instead
of pushing through the white space proceeding, the FCC should focus on the transition
of television stations to digital broadcasts, mandated by Congress to happen
by February 2009, the NAB has said. The transition is freeing up spectrum in
the 700MHz band for wireless services; an FCC spectrum auction for the band
concluded last week.

The Google proposal would create a so-called "safe harbor" for wireless
microphones between channels 36 and 38 in the television spectrum. That safe
harbor would also protect medical telemetry devices and radio astronomy services,
which use channel 37, Google said.

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