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Controversial FCC White Space Decision Creates "Goldrush" Opportunities

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After an epic battle between the US broadcasting industry and high tech companies, the FCC ruled in November 2008 that it would open up white space spectrum (54 MHz to 698 MHz) once TV stations move from analog to digital transmissions and no longer need the bandwidth "guard rails" required by analog. Congress has set the date for that transition for June 2009.

"The decision to open up new spectrum is one of the most contentious the FCC has ever made," says ABI Research vice president Stan Schatt. "It's the equivalent of the government opening up a previously untapped oilfield. This is very valuable spectrum because unlike most wavelengths used by wireless communications it allows signals to pass through terrain features such as hills and forests, greatly increasing usable range."

An epic battle led up to this decision. The broadcast industry and wireless microphone vendors were opposed, expressing concerns about possible interference from WSDs (White Space Devices). To address their objections, the FCC has established several safeguards.

In the supporting camp are found device manufacturers, chip-makers, consumer electronics vendors, some politicians, and hopeful service provider startups which, says Schatt, are likely to be the first to take advantage of this opportunity. "Service provider startups will use this spectrum to offer new services to rural communities in particular. In sparsely-populated areas there's a lot of white space available. If they move quickly enough, it's even possible they can take advantage of some of the $7 billion in broadband rollout funds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act."

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Tags: rural  abi research  ovi  iden  fcc  analog  white space  bandwidth