Google’s influence in wireless continues, with its focus shifting away from the 700 MHz auction to the so called wireless “white space” initiative. Wireless white space is the “empty spaces” in television spectrum used by channels 2 through 51. After the 2009 digital TV transition, this spectrum will be freed up and Google would like it to be used as unlicensed spectrum for broadband wireless. Google claims that gigabit per second speeds could be achieved wirelessly, and they would like to be very active participants in making that happen. They view white space wireless as “Wi-Fi 2.0,” allowing a variety of wireless devices to access a ubiquitous broadband wireless network. In an FCC ex-parte letter, Google even suggests funding the research and development and technical support costs for bringing such a solution to market.
Google has already demonstrated their influence in wireless policy. They were very active, and may hold much of the responsibility, for ensuring the recently auctioned 700 MHz C-block spectrum had an “open access” provision tied to it. They did not win the spectrum (and probably had no intention of doing so), but their influence into the rulemaking and commitment to meeting the FCC’s minimum bid requirement ensured open access was mandated for that portion of the spectrum. They are now working to influence the white space initiative, and the FCC has no choice but to listen, and probably act. There are considerable issues to be worked out including, potential interference and equipment development issues, before white space is a reality. There are heavyweight opponents to white space wireless as well, including the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), and even the NFL, who fear it would interfere with their game referee’s wireless mic systems. Google’s desire is to see as much open broadband wireless connectivity as possible, so their forthcoming Android platform for wireless devices can be widely deployed. They are pushing for open access and unlicensed requirements so Android can interact with wireless networks without being tied to a specific wireless carrier. If their foray into the 700 MHz debate is any indication, Google may see their desires come true with the white space initiative. The competitive implications for these moves are wide and deep, and could significantly alter the wireless landscape as we know it.