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RAIN 9/24: FCC unanimously approves use of "whitespace" airwaves for wireless broadband

Posted on: 09/24/2010


The FCC unanimously approved plans yesterday to use unlicensed “whitespace” airwaves to deliver wireless broadband. Many are describing the newly-approved wireless broadband as “Wi-Fi networks on steroids,” or “super Wi-Fi.” The agency reportedly hopes to see devices that take advantage of whitespace broadband in the hands of consumers within a year.

With the spectrum, broadband signals could travel several miles and penetrate interference like walls. The Washington Post earlier reported that some expect whitespace broadband speeds to reach 15-20 mb per second (RAIN coverage here). The FCC says whitespace broadband will be “available to all users for free, with no license required.”

Not surprisingly, companies like Google, Microsoft and Dell praised the decision and appear eager to get started on new products. “By opening this broadcast spectrum for Internet use, the commission is helping to unleash a whole new class of mobile wireless broadband services with applications that are nearly limitless,” Dell Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Dell said in a statement.

Industry attorney David Oxenford warns that such devices and services “will not occur overnight,” however. First a database of TV channels and major wireless mic users (theaters and sports leagues, for example) must be established, so new devices could be programmed to not interfere with existing signals.

For much more on the story, read David Oxenford’s coverage at Davis Wright Tremaine’s Broadcast Law Blog here or read the Associated Press’ coverage at Physorg.com here.


Verizon Wireless CEO Ivan Seidenberg confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that the cellular service provider will follow its rival AT&T in abandoning unlimited data plans in favor of tiered “consumption-based pricing” plans. Seidenberg said the new plans will be rolled out in the next four to six months. He also hinted that the new plans would not mimic AT&T’s plans completely, but didn’t provide further details.

AT&T now offers two data plans: 200MB of data for $15 per month or 2GB for $25. Verizon currently offers unlimited data access for $30 a month. Pandora said, when AT&T changed its data plans, that “less than 0.5% of our listeners would be constrained by the 2GB option.”

You can find the WSJ article here.


Sonos, a maker of multi-room wireless music systems, has debuted a new dock for iPod and iPhone devices which stream music from the gadgets wirelessly to Sonos receivers around your house. That reportedly includes music from third-party apps like Pandora and AccuRadio as well. The dock will be available in October and will run for about $120. DigitalTrends.com has more coverage here.

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