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Microsoft urges U.S. to open up more white space for high speed wireless broadband

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates spoke to U.S. communications regulators on Thursday, calling on them free up more “white space” spectrum and allow technology companies to utilize the space to boost the access of wireless broadband Internet service.

White spaces are unused frequencies in radio waves used to create a partition between frequencies to avoid interference.  Several lobbies, Microsoft included, are pushing to decrease frequencies currently declared white space, and apply them to commercial applications.

"We're hopeful that that will be made available so that Wi-Fi can explode in terms of its usage, even out into some of these less dense areas [of the United States] where distance has been a big problem for Wi-Fi," Gates answered to a question from an audience member.

Microsoft is joined by a group of technology companies know as the White Space Coalition.  The coalition includes Google, Dell, HP, Intel, Philips, Earthlink and Samsung Electro-Mechanics.

Other lobbies successfully decommissioned the 698 to 806 MHz spectrum, originally designated for analog television.  This spectrum was then auctioned off to private companies in FCC Auction 73, which caught numerous headlines due to Google's involvement.

The problem in allowing companies to capitalize on white space is the threat of interference with television and radio waves.  The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently applying tests to observe the limits of using white space before it begins to interferes with other broadcasts.   

The first test for white space transitioning will occur on February 17, 2009 when television operators are no longer allowed to broadcast on the frequencies sold in FCC Auction 73.  Any mishaps with that transition could result in serious setbacks for white space lobbying; a smooth transition will likely woo Congress in the other direction. 

The 2005 Senate decision set a path for the companies to hold out until the transition has been made, but Gates claims what there is of it already is not enough. No decision has been reached and most likely will not until a full post mortem of FCC Auction 73 is complete.

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Broadband penetration
By prenox on 3/17/2008 3:35:23 PM , Rating: 3
If Microsoft really wants to offer IPTV and HD downloads then they need to work on fiber optic penetration more than wireless.

RE: Broadband penetration
By Fnoob on 3/17/2008 3:48:12 PM , Rating: 2
Unless wireless future 802.11'z' offers fiber speeds.

RE: Broadband penetration
By mindless1 on 3/18/2008 5:17:18 AM , Rating: 2
Which we already know is impossible.

RE: Broadband penetration
By MrBlastman on 3/18/2008 9:52:40 AM , Rating: 2
It isn't neccessarily impossible at all.

Instead of dedicating the data stream to one frequency, you theoretically could utilize multiple frequencies from the router source, sequence the packets on the fly from end point to end point and span the data stream across these frequencies to the listening device.

It in turn could re-sequence the packets (provided they exceeded frequency one's saturation level) and up your bandwidth considerably.

That is, in theory at least.

RE: Broadband penetration
By spluurfg on 3/17/2008 4:12:51 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah but who's going to pay for it? It's not profitable to create an extensive fiber optic network in areas with low population density, and the US is a big country.

Besides, he's lobbying for wireless broadband -- fiber optic cables aren't very useful in achieving that... I don't think the objective here is IPTV or streaming HD on mobile devices, though with a mature HSDPA network or wimax, one could stream a relatively high bitrate video -- mobile TV is not uncommon on UK 3g networks. Rather, the idea is that all mobile handsets would have a fast connection to the net -- i.e. the never-ending desire for 'convergence'.

RE: Broadband penetration
By kenji4life on 3/17/2008 4:56:40 PM , Rating: 5
No matter how fast cables get, it'll never make them any better for attaching to a free-moving object.

As laptops are set to start replacing desktops and cars are more 'connected' with carputer, wireless is the only thing practical for the present and future.

RE: Broadband penetration
By bobsmith1492 on 3/17/2008 6:24:52 PM , Rating: 2
Assuming you can get a LOT of radio spectrum dedicated to it at least...

The 60GHz spectrum is still available, and with advances in silicon fabrication circuitry at those speeds is becoming possible. Plus, the tiny wavelengths mean you can make an entire radio chip - with multiple antennas - on a single IC then phase-shift the antennas to aim the signal. Unfortunately it doesn't go through much of anything, so it NEEDS to be pointed properly.

RE: Broadband penetration
By HrilL on 3/17/2008 9:00:11 PM , Rating: 2
It also doesn't go very far so that really doesn't help much.

These packaged chips have been demonstrated at 630 Mbps throughput at a maximum range of ten meters.

If you want to read more go here

RE: Broadband penetration
By mindless1 on 3/18/2008 5:25:55 AM , Rating: 2
Fiber optic cables are very useful in achieving wireless broadband. Remember it's not necessarily a case of having an optical cable going to every home, just to extend the wired network out far enough into the boone docks that the wifi range and speed is viable. The narrower the band and more people on it, the shorter you want those transmissions to travel and overlap.

It's a bit similar to how you might want to run a (wired) ethernet cable in a business to strategically located wifi access points, but due to the extended overage area you'd need more bandwidth capability than CAT6 could provide.

Coming soon...
By Fnoob on 3/17/2008 3:32:01 PM , Rating: 1
Rev. Jeremiah Wright will be using this as 'proof' in next week's sermon.

RE: Coming soon...
By thestain on 3/17/2008 7:46:35 PM , Rating: 1
Now just because William Gates III is advancing matters so that he can be King of the airwaves, does not mean we need to be concerned does it? Getting control of some kind on every piece of technology in both hardware and software form, while reducing freedoms on the airwaves now.. nothing to be concerned about is how we should view things, right?

RE: Coming soon...
By Alexstarfire on 3/18/2008 12:16:11 AM , Rating: 2
How is this reducing freedoms on the airwaves?

I want more Wi-Fi
By Domicinator on 3/17/2008 4:50:00 PM , Rating: 2
I hope that this idea comes to fruition in the future. Wi-fi has the capability to be quite a bit faster than what most of us are used to at the moment, and I would love to see it more widely available and at much faster speeds. I do a lot of driving for my job, and I will admit that sometimes when I pull over somewhere, I'll quickly whip out the laptop and see if there's some slim chance that I can pick up an unsecured network for long enough to check some e mails and send some orders in to my office. Usually if I do find a network, it's much too weak to even bother with. Plus, I do realize that doing this is illegal. The only truly reliable wi-fi I get is on my home network, but I'm hardly ever home.

RE: I want more Wi-Fi
By winterspan on 3/17/2008 7:58:19 PM , Rating: 2
one thing to look at are programs like FON, where users sign up to be in a huge global network for sharing Wifi. You basically download special firmware for your router (or they sell you a cheap one if your current one is not compatible) so that it can connect to their authentication server. Then other FON memebers can securely connect to your Wifi, and you can connect to theirs. Its totally secure so as not to let them on your actual LAN, and you can specify how much bandwidth you want to give to the FON side of your network. It's really a great program for frequent travelers and there are thousands of locations where you can connect to! Think massive shared broadband network.

By mondo1234 on 3/17/2008 6:57:01 PM , Rating: 3
He must have trouble adapting to his new environment (philanthropy)as he keeps coming back to tech. He hasn't sat down with the government this much since the antitrust days.

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner
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