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Wireless Networking The Internet Hardware

White Space Plan Would Reuse TV Spectrum 150

An anonymous reader writes "A collection of companies including Microsoft, Google and Motorola are teaming up for a new white space wireless network plan. The White Spaces Database Group, as it will be known, plans on formulating a plan to create, govern and maintain a wireless broadband network on abandoned analog television spectrum. When the spectrum is finally vacated in June, the group hopes that system in place which will allow for the creation of an open wireless broadband network which will be accessible by any device. The FCC officially approved keeping the spectrum open back in November, despite staunch opposition from telco firms."
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White Space Plan Would Reuse TV Spectrum

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05, 2009 @05:46PM (#26744489)

    Why you being racist like that? Do whites really need more space? Don't they have enough already?

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Well, we could start calling dark fiber "Black Fiber"...
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I guess if it uses multiple wavelengths on a single strand, we'll have to call it "colored fiber."
        • United fibers of Benetton? Though, if we include all the colors won't it become white fiber again?
    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )

      Well, you have all that "dark fiber" out there.. what's wrong with a bit of "white space" for us common folk in flyover territory?

  • by pieterh ( 196118 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @05:47PM (#26744517) Homepage

    This is a very profound threat to lucrative mobile cartels. Yet it's absolutely necessary as a step on the way to opening the airwaves to serve a real global Internet. My prediction: the telcos will respond with patent litigation, and with "think of the children and *AA" legislative proposals to tie the new open networks up in monitoring, filtering, and other restrictions on use.

    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )

      Don't forget who holds the cards on the backbone, mostly telecom companies.

    • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @07:33PM (#26745897) Journal

      I'm not happy about it.

      I live in Lancaster PA. The TV Band (whitespace) Devices will broadcast over top of, and block my Baltimore/Philly stations. No more 2,3,6,10,11,12,13,17,35,45,57,61,65 - no more Orioles, Raven, Phillies, or Eagles games. Less variety & loss of free television is not something I'm looking forward to.

      • by n6kuy ( 172098 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @08:10PM (#26746301)

        > I live in Lancaster PA.

        No worries. You Amish don't watch TV anyway.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        The TV Band (whitespace) Devices will broadcast over top of, and block my Baltimore/Philly stations.

        Prove it. Oh, wait... you can't, as there currenlty are no licensed whitespace devices out in the market.
        The FCC is requiring that whitespace devices not interfere with DTV and wireless mic signals. I bet that you would get a rapid and effective response from the FCC if you *really* did have a whitespace device that was fucking up your TV signal.

        • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @09:59PM (#26747209) Journal

          >>>The FCC is requiring that whitespace devices not interfere with DTV

          You mean *in-market* DTV. Out-of-market DTV is not protected, which is why I will lose the Baltimore-Philadelphia stations.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            You're speaking of it as if it is a certainty. You might want to wait and see just how good these devices are. I bet that you'll be pleasantly surprised by the state of the computer-controlled radio art.

            • >>>You're speaking of it as if it is a certainty.

              That's because I read the frakkin' regulations! The devices are free to broadcast overtop of out-of market stations, which is why I will lose Baltimore & Philadelphia from my location.

              >>>wait and see just how good these devices are

              No need to wait. Just read: "Yet another Microsoft white space device fails FCC testing" - "white space wireless fails second round of fcc testing" - "White Space Prototypes Fail FCC Test" - and on and on -

    • P.S.

      >>> "maintain a wireless broadband network on the abandoned analogue television spectrum."

      The article summary is wrong. The November meeting with the FCC approved TV Band/whitespace Devices to operate *on* the channels on the television dial (2 to 51). This is not abandoned spectrum. On the contrary, it's very active spectrum - active with Digital and High-Def TV.

  • by cryfreedomlove ( 929828 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @05:55PM (#26744645)
    This could provide critically needed rural access to broadband. It would also create competition for local DSL and Cable Model monopolies. There is no downside here for consumers.
    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Thursday February 05, 2009 @06:30PM (#26745155) Homepage

      Oh, it's terrible for consumers. First, not auctioning off this spectrum deprives tax payers of money. When you think about it, it's really criminal that the government doesn't auction off all of our services and rights to private enterprise. We could make SO MUCH money!

      Also, by providing "free" things, you're depriving companies of revenue, which will damage the economy. They'll have to charge more for other services, and probably cut jobs too. We want the telecoms to make as much money as possible, because then the economy will thrive.

      (Of course I'm not serious, but apparently some people think like this.)

      • >>>Also, by providing "free" things,

        No, not free. There will be a fee to access the whitespace, according to the FCC ruling back in November.

      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by timmarhy ( 659436 )
        the bastards, how dare they deprive us of the oppertunity to pay for things twice!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      >>>There is no downside here for consumers.

      Actually there's one very major downside: A rural viewer might be watching channel 10 to catch-up on the news, and suddenly the kid next door turns-on his TV Ban/whitespace Device and starts broadcasting over the same channel 10. The rural viewer will see garbage just like this: []

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by JustNilt ( 984644 )

        Actually there's one very major downside: A rural viewer might be watching channel 10 to catch-up on the news, and suddenly the kid next door turns-on his TV Ban/whitespace Device and starts broadcasting over the same channel 10.

        Except that the T signal is broadcast on a different part of the radio spectrum, not the one the whitespace device will be on. In addition, the whitespace devices use only UNUSED spectrum, following methods already shown to be effective. Enough astroturfing already.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by fermion ( 181285 )
        Actually, the way I understand digital it is unlikely the rural viewer will get anything at all. In the past, rural areas could get a signal just by mounting a large receiving antenna. Now, with the way digital works, it is unlikely that anyone who did not get excellent analog coverage is going to get nothing without either a station that retransmits content or a satellite service. Even in the city, there are stations that I have trouble receiving. The least of the rural worries are interference. It is
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Rural viewers can always mount a directional antenna aimed at the nearest large market of their choice. I agree, the whole thing stinks, but it's not the end of the world.

        • The issue isn't so much "how digital works" as it is "how sensitive is your RF front-end"? This applies as much to analog as digital.

          • It isn't that simple. Analog uses a sync pulse about 0.1 megahertz wide. As long as your RF receiver can see the sync, you can see a picture displayed on the television. Very robust design.

            Digital uses a pulse 6 megahertz wide, and if even a tiny portion of that wideband signal is disrupted, your receiver's computer will go "huh?" and give up. The viewer will see nothing.

            That's why I am able to see over 20 analog stations, but only 10 digital. The analog is easier to receive.

  • Since it's public domain then they shouldn't have any problem appointing me to their board, right?
  • Any word on how your data will get back to the place you are visiting? Are these frequencies suitable for low-power transmission by consumers? Should be expect yet another cellular radio network? Is that a good thing, given that health concerns have not been laid to rest completely?
    • Re:Return Path? (Score:5, Informative)

      by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Thursday February 05, 2009 @06:03PM (#26744765) Homepage Journal

      Health concerns have scientifically been oput to rest. There isn't really anything you can do about peple who just make shit up and ignore facts.

      • Health concerns have scientifically been oput to rest. There isn't really anything you can do about peple who just make shit up and ignore facts.

        I have no doubt that they've been put to rest as far as we know, but when it comes to medicine and health, our science has always been imprecise. Something that is good and safe this year will be bad and will kill you the next. This is the problem when half the conclusions being drawn are along the lines of "We have no idea how or why this works, but in a double blind trial of 300 people, we show a 15% improvement."

        Not that I believe there are health concerns with wireless technology, just saying that

        • just saying that there was a time the people were convinced the world was flat.

          This is a popular misconception that is spread about but is far from being true. I suggest you give this a good read: []

          To quote just a small section:

          The Myth of the Flat Earth or Flat Earth mythology refers to the modern misconception that the prevailing cosmological view during the Middle Ages saw the Earth as flat, instead of spherical. During the early Middle Ages, many scholars maintained the spherical viewpoint first expressed by the Ancient Greeks. By the 14th century, belief in a flat earth among the educated was essentially dead. Flat-Earth models were in fact held at earlier (pre-medieval) times, before the spherical model became commonly accepted in Hellenistic astronomy.

        • Re:Return Path? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Chyeld ( 713439 ) <> on Thursday February 05, 2009 @06:48PM (#26745365)

          See friend, that's the difference between the human body, which is imperfectly understood, if at all, and say... RADIO WAVES, which we pretty much understand all significant issues of.

          If you give me a pill and say "We don't think this will kill you.", I have a legitimate concern.

          If you give me a cell phone and say "its impact on you is less than the impact of the background radiation you are exposed to daily 24/7, we know this via several methods, most significantly a through understanding of how radio waves propagate." I don't.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Ocker3 ( 1232550 )
            you've just disproved your own point. we're Not 100% sure how the human body works, and so we're not 100% sure how radio waves affect it. Just because we understand how to send and recieve radio waves, doesn't mean we always know what happens when we bounce a lot of them off of cells in the human body. Hopefully not much (I carry a cell phone all day), but I try to minimise my exposure if I don't need to have it on me. If we're not sure if something is extremely, moderately or mildly dangerous, or even inn
            • you've just disproved your own point.

              What? Look. *You* might not have the foggiest notion about the interactions between EM radiation and the human body, but the scientific community does. It has been intensely studying EM radiation for far more than fifty years.

              There comes a time when you have to say things like "You know, containing explosions in a strong metal vessel for the purpose of propelling a mass really has turned out to be a good idea with a safe implementation. I *should* believe the engineers and scientists -who have spent the bet

            • by dsanfte ( 443781 )

              Just because we understand how to send and recieve radio waves, doesn't mean we always know what happens when we bounce a lot of them off of cells in the human body.

              Ionizing radiation is what's damaging to the human body. It hits electrons and strips them off their host atoms.

              Thing is...there's an absolute minimum energy you need to strip one of them off (ionize). And radio-wavelength photons simply dont' have it.

              You can throw as many photons of sub-UV frequency as you please at a human being -- long wave,

              • So what you are saying is that I'm NOT going to vapourize into a cloud of ions, but I may get a little cooked around the edges (ever put an egg in a microwave for lulz) ?

                Oh, that's just fine th... hang on, someone is calling my mobile.

            • But there's other stuff, too. Tesla was all wild with wireless power, the man probably had as much raw electricity coursing through him as he did blood. But he died quietly in his sleep at the age of what, 80-something?

              Nothing is safe if it isn't in nature, and even then nature isn't safe to begin with. But I think GP meant more, you're being hit with all sorts of radio waves, stronger than the occasional use of a cellphone... do you really think it's going to kill you?

              (personally, I don't like cellphones b

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Should be expect yet another cellular radio network? Is that a good thing, given that health concerns have not been laid to rest completely?

      Sine when have they not been put to rest? Just because a bunch of loonies disagree with the science that debunked their claims doesn't mean their concerns haven't been put to rest.

    • by pla ( 258480 )
      Are these frequencies suitable for low-power transmission by consumers?

      They originally chose the frequencies involved because they propagate quite easily through the Earth's atmosphere (unlike 2.4GHz, to which our atmosphere basically looks opaque, and the FCC only threw us that scrap because all the Big Boys considered it nearly worthless).

      As for transmission power, with a good high-gain directional transceiver, you only need to make up for losses between you and the other end; so if 2.4GHz works fine
  • Whitespace?? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Foofoobar ( 318279 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @06:02PM (#26744749)
    I wonder if their documentation will be written in whitespace [].
  • Staged: Another dramatic variation on a theme, not-so-cleverly disguised as a change of scenery. Uncle Sam didn't see that one coming? Yeah, right; M-G-M study-oh's perchance? What's in a name. ...This better be good.

    *expresses in deadpan*
  • by nsayer ( 86181 ) * <nsayer @ k f u . c om> on Thursday February 05, 2009 @07:07PM (#26745561) Homepage

    Are they talking white space or are they talking 700 MHz?

    White space means unused TV channels, which means 470-700 MHz after the transition.

    What it sounds like, however, is that they're referring to the rules that will govern the new 700 MHz allocations that were auctioned last year.

    There is no "abandoned" analog bandwidth. The top 100 MHz of the UHF TV band were reallocated to other services and the TV broadcasters were "packed in" closer together thanks to ATSC's less stringent adjacent channel spacing requirements.

  • by Gazoogleheimer ( 1466831 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @07:20PM (#26745707) Homepage
    As both a sound engineer at a theater and an amateur radio operator, I fear that these devices will not be made to the standards required for such...versatile transmitters and that they will not properly 'check' for signal presence. It's not too much of a problem for ham stuff (stay out of my 440MHz, I'm happy)--but UHF wireless microphones in theaters utilize unused UHF television channels. I don't want to come in one day, turn on all of my Shure receivers, and have to rechannelize all of my microphones which I already set carefully. I don't know if my wariness is justified, however.
    • If they are not licensed, then by what right do you expect them to not get interference? One unlicensed user has just as much right to the spectrum as another. If the mike's were digital, they could, I think, happily co-exist with other digital users of that white-space spectrum. Outside of ham-bands, I begin to think that analog radio devices will quickly become a think of the past - the problem with analog stuff is that basically only one user (or one group of users) can use a certain frequency at a time.

      • They are unlicensed, however when one has twenty-five or so multi-hundred-dollar pack systems that our school theater purchased only about a year ago. And no, to the other replier--they are in no way breaking the law, for they are in the milliwatt range and in proper allocation by the FCC and USDOC. There are very few 'digital' models for spread spectrum, and the analog packs have no reception issues (although they need companding to squeeze enough dynamic range in.) It would be different if this equipment
        • by dtmos ( 447842 ) * on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:50PM (#26747975)

          ...but if your wireless mics really are in the TV bands, and really aren't Part 15 devices, then they're Part 74, Subpart H devices [], which do require a license. There are no other options. You're one of many who've been sold a bill of goods by unscrupulous manufacturers of these microphones which, by law, can only be licensed to television stations, broadcast networks, cable television systems, motion picture producers, television program producers, and Multipoint Multichannel Distribution System (MMDS) licensees (Title 47 USC, 74.832 []). See this [] for a pretty good, if slightly dated, FAQ on what's required to license a wireless microphone in the US.

          These microphones typically will be offered no protection against interference from whitespace protocols like the IEEE 802.22 standard []. Note that the IEEE 802.22 group [] is also in the final stages of standardizing a beacon protocol, IEEE 802.22.1 [pdf] []. This beacon is to be present whenever the (licensed) wireless microphone is in operation, and produces a signal easier to detect (at a greater range) than the microphone itself, so that cognitive white space secondary users can more reliably determine that that television channel is occupied and move elsewhere. This system avoids interference to the wireless microphone by the secondary user.

  • a small chunk of UHF spectrum given to the citizens of the USA to be unlicensed like 27 mhz CB radio, allowing 4 or 5 watts and any external antenna you wish to buy or build, with the sun cycle starting up again 27 mhz CB radio is going to be a complete mess for the next 5 to 7 years making local communication on 27 mhz CB radio almost impossible, since uhf does not get the DX/skip propagation conditions like HF (including 27 mhz CB radio) it would benefit many citizens and especially truck drivers that onl
    • and do not say 'get those FRS radios they sell at walmart' because those are worthless little pieces of junk without any decent wattage on TX (1/4 watt) and the speaker audio is not good for a noisy environment like the inside of a tractor or an 18 wheeler, many truckers and farmers would benefit from a decent UHF CB radio...

      Ok, I won't say "get those FRS radios." Get those GMRS radios and the license. Or get those MURS radios without a license (VHF). There are already solutions to the problem you want so

    • Dude, we already have MURS (VHF 5 channels) and GMRS (UHF 14 channels). I would rather see CB'ers put some where on the 900 MHz band, say the 901-902 portion, NBFM 3 watts 100 channels. The BIG DOGS (the Prime Minister aka Sir Mixalot comes to mind) who run 1-30+ kw on 11 meters would never be able to run major amounts of power at 900 MHz. One is the cost of building amps that can run this kind power level is beyond cost prohibitive, not to mention the extreme dangers of near field in the sub microwave band

      • lol, i agree, i would not install a amp on my CB (base or mobile) for anything in the world, i dont want the excess RF radiating in to my body, i have a factory stock cobra 148 with just a 5/8ths wave antenna for a base station, and a cobra 25 for a mobile, i manage just fine with 4 watts until the DX/Skip starts rolling and i cant to to friends and associates across town anymore but i can talk to people several states away unless a big boy radio starts talking with gobs of watts, i would be glad to use 900
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      why not get a license, there pretty easy to get.

      The only reason why I'm curious is that you clearly are willing to spend money and effort to get a CB radio.

      • i talk with a small group of friends mostly, out of 5 of us only one is a licensed amateur operator, we only talk for an hour or two in the evenings after work & after supper, we dont want to deal with callsigns & protocols because we know who we are just by the sound of our voices, were all just working folks and want to keep the conversation casual without callsigns, so getting a license would mean all of us would have to get licenses, but we all could manage to scrape together the cash to buy a f
    • For commercial use, you really should be getting a site license. A ham license would be pretty useless to you for anything but basic chatting. (although a lot of truckers, I understand, have amateur licenses for the twofold reason of flexibility and the natural screening that the licensure provides.)

  • Consider how well 700 MHz propogates.

    Now consider that every previous attempt to create a wireless mesh network has failed because none has ever achieved sufficient density to qualify as a mesh. Whitespace base stations (non-portable devices) can transmit at 1 watt, with a maximum EIRP of 4 watts. With a sufficiently clever encoding scheme, such devices should be able to hear each other over a long enough distance to finally get over the hump and establish a usable mesh. Portable devices can transmit at

    • All I know is, if it won't mesh, I won't vote for it. As if I get a choice. But a mesh network is what we desperately need if we are going to retain any control over our freedom of digital expression.

  • There's a politically active group of geezers with nothing better to do other than watch Lawrence Welk and write to theie congresspersons, bitching about why they should be forced to drop $50 on a converter box. Fearing their wrath at election time, Congress will continure to postpone the cutover indefinitely.

    • Congress has pushed back the date of mandatory switchover, but the law allows voluntary switchover. And TV stations are stampeding for the door. They've been forced to run both analog and digital broadcasts for ages and the power bill is a drag. The analog gear is old, fully depreciated, and annoying to maintain. They'll shut it off in preference to the new digital gear. Most people don't understand that TV stations now have an option, so I expect there to be some uproar when analog after analog starts

  • I've always found this topic curious. As much as open source, no software patents or an anti-RIAA stance, I would have expected something like this to be avidly supported by the vast majority of us.

    In this latest story, it would seem like the tide is gradually turning as people begin to realise the enormous potential benefits something like this can bring.

    Google sums up the change on their web site Free the Airwaves []. From what I gather, devices will only be able to be sold as long as they keep to a re

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