google tv white spacesGoogle is positioning itself to be the third white spaces database administrator approved by the FCC, joining Spectrum Bridge and Telcordia who both have had operational white spaces databases since last year. Google announced yesterday that it had been approved to start a 45-day trial of its database, one of the last steps a would-be database administrator must complete before receiving final FCC approval.

In an interview, Spectrum Bridge CTO Peter Stanforth estimated that Google could have a commercially operational white spaces database within 60 to 90 days. “Once they get the seal of approval they could start right away,” he said.

White spaces database administrators play a key role in supporting wireless broadband deployments in vacant TV broadcast spectrum by keeping track of where spectrum is available and making that information available to white spaces equipment over an Internet connection so that the equipment is automatically configured to use vacant spectrum. Databases operated by Spectrum Bridge and Telcordia underlie TV white spaces deployments that have already been made, primarily in rural areas where landline broadband may be not unavailable.

In December the FCC eliminated the need for wireless Internet service providers to obtain an experimental license or special temporary authority (STA) in order to deploy TV white spaces in certain parts of the U.S. On Friday the commission lifted the requirement to obtain an experimental license or STA on a nationwide basis.

Nine companies – including Microsoft and Neustar — initially expressed interest in being white spaces administrators, but Stanforth doesn’t believe all of them will complete the approval process.

Of the companies that originally raised their hands, he said “there are two others we know of that are in the process to start to get certified.”

In addition he said, “We suspect two or three have given up and won’t bother – and one or two others are sitting on the fence.”

Stanforth predicted that ultimately there will be more than three but fewer than 10 U.S. white spaces database administrators. He also noted that Microsoft has been very involved in white spaces initiatives in Africa.

Although the idea of using a database to enable different types of users to share the same spectrum originated in the TV broadcast band, the same technology is expected to be useful in helping users share other spectrum bands as well.

Google TV Whitespaces Broadband Map

Google Earth visualization of available TV white space spectrum (Source: Google)

In a blog post about the commencement of its white space database trials, Google released an interesting interactive map showing how much white spaces spectrum is available in various parts of the U.S. As the map clearly illustrates, there is a substantial amount of unused TV broadcast spectrum in many rural areas.