Novel US plan to use TV white spaces to boost broadband availability

17 Oct 2008

Affordable, nationwide, high-speed broadband connectivity could become available right across the US, and be a model for other nations to follow, if a plan to make use of unused TV spectrum white spaces is acted on.

In recent days, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Office of Engineering released a report entitled ‘Evaluation of the Performance of Prototype TV-Band White Space Devices.’

The report included detailed results of laboratory and field interference tests of several prototype TV band white space devices.

The commission conducted laboratory and field tests of prototype white space devices, and is about to authorise licences for the operation of new low-power devices in the TV broadcast spectrum at locations where individual channels/frequencies are not being used for authorised services.

The move towards the use of white spaces to allow affordable broadband, particularly in rural or urban areas not covered by mainstream providers, has been vigorously supported by Google co-founder, Larry Page.

Initial concern over whether white space spectrum being harnessed for broadband could interfere with emergency signals has been scorned by Page, who alleged that previous tests had been rigged.

FCC chairman, Kevin Martin, has reportedly voiced his support for using vacant airwaves from the forthcoming 2009 digital TV transition and analogue switch-off for mobile broadband.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years