FCC approves Google project that will identify unused wireless spectrum

A Google project designed to collect information on available wireless spectrum into a central database has been given an FCC go-ahead to begin a public trial, the company announced today.

The project centers on identifying gaps between TV bands, often called whitespace, that can be used without intruding on protected transmissions like terrestrial TV and radio.

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Data from the FCC itself is being used to compile the database, which Google has translated into a Maps overlay. This allows users to see which frequencies, if any, are available in their area, for both portable and more heavily regulated fixed devices.

Alan Norman, principal of Google's Access strategy team, said in a blog post that the idea is to provide more flexibility for wireless networks.

"Spectrum sharing allows devices to use spectrum when it is not in use by someone else simply by checking a data base. We're in the process (with several others) of becoming a certified database administrator for [whitespace]," he wrote.

The trial is set to last for 45 days. If successful, the FCC will officially certify Google, which will allow registered wireless devices to automatically query the database and use only available local bandwidths.

The FCC has is pushing for a large-scale update of how wireless spectrum is allocated in the U.S., moving forward on a plan to re-auction major parts of the TV bands to mobile carriers last year. Critics, however, say that companies like Verizon and AT&T would gain an excessive amount of control over the airwaves, harming competition and effectively creating a cartel.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold. Oh, and I have a Google+ page too.

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