Google's plans to squeeze wireless internet access into the "white space" in-between TV channels - and in turn further prise web control from ISP dominance - has received a boost, with its TV bands database system getting the green-light from the FCC. The TV white space (TVWS) database, which lists the existing TV services along with the frequencies they operate on in each area, and as such highlights the spare spectrum where other services could operate, gained FCC approval this week, after having been run in a public trial from March.
Google's aim is to promote what's known as dynamic sharing of spectrum, where chunks of bandwidth are used for multiple purposes at different times. That way, more applications can be derived from the limited amount of spectrum available.
"If a government communications system does not require spectrum at specific times, that spectrum can be freed up for commercial purposes during those times" Google suggests. "With dynamic sharing, multiple users, including federal, non-federal and commercial entities, can all access available bands of radio spectrum."
The search giant began petitioning for more flexibility in how wireless frequencies are used back in 2008, requesting permission from the FCC to use spare channels in what's considered the TV range for broadband purposes. However, the scheme met with resistance from TV networks, which warned that Google's plan could result in interference.
In 2010, the FCC agreed on a spectrum sharing plan, but also laid down expectations from hardware providers as to how to address the interference issue. Devices using the contentious bands will need to be fitted with equipment that tracks wireless use, so as to ensure that they don't overstep onto other applications.
Meanwhile, two types of white space sharing have been formulated. Most flexible is a so-called "portable" white space device, which has a smaller range of its wireless signal, such as a smartphone or laptop; more powerful devices are known as "fixed" and include commercial WiFi hotspots and wireless broadband transmitters for rural and other off-the-track areas. The FCC is, unsurprisingly, more strict with the latter, given the greater chance for infringing on existing uses of the spectrum.
Although Google was long rumored to be considering its own wireless internet service fitting into the white space freed up by the change in regulation, it's only recently that the company has given hints on what that might look like. Project Loon will see Google deploy giant balloons that work as network hubs around the world, forming a loose ring of connectivity that delivers roughly 3G-speed access, according to the ambitious plans.
White space use ties into that closely, with Google already operating TVWS trial services in the US and, most recently, in South Africa.
Google Project Loon overview: