Google and others urge inventory of national airwaves

May 06, 2009 By Elise Ackerman

In a rare show of unity over national communications policy, Google, the wireless industry and consumer advocates have come together to support a bill that would require the federal government to take a complete inventory of the national airwaves to determine what spectrum is being used, how it is being used and who is using it.

The government needs to clean up its sloppy record keeping, they say, or the United States risks running out of wireless capacity as people and businesses make increasing use of the mobile Internet.

"Radio spectrum is a natural resource, something that here in the U.S. is owned by all of us American citizens," Richard Whitt, Google's counsel for telecom and media, wrote in a blog post earlier this week in support of the Inventory Act, which was recently introduced in Congress by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Olivia Snowe, R-Maine. "Most of us don't give it much thought -- and yet use of these airwaves is precisely what makes many of our modern communication systems possible."

Thanks in part to new devices like the iPhone that take the pain out of mobile browsing, the amount of data transmitted over wireless networks could double in three years, according to Nokia Siemens Networks.

"I don't expect current spectrum to be exhausted in the next couple of years, but I do suspect it will be highly stressed," said Peter Rysavy, an analyst who recently wrote a report on the demand for mobile broadband spectrum for the CTIA, an international association for the wireless telecommunications industry.

Rysavy said new technologies will help, along with the construction of more towers, but that more spectrum will still be needed. Among the new technologies is WiMax, which provides a wireless data service similar in quality a high-speed cable connection, and femtocells, which are tiny wireless base stations that improve coverage in small areas.

Harold Feld, legal director for Public Knowledge, a public interest group based in Washington, said some spectrum could be freed up if the federal government was forced to use its airwaves more efficiently. "There is a lot of wasted spectrum that is under federal control," Feld said.

The new law, if passed, would require the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration to report on the use of all spectrum bands between 300 megahertz and 3.5 gigahertz, including information on the licenses or government user operating in each band and whether the spectrum is actually in use.

"There needs to be a very specific accounting not only of what spectrum is being used, but who is using it," said John Walls, a spokesman for CTIA.

The unusual alliance between and public interest groups and big telecommunications companies may be temporary. The telecom companies want to have the opportunity to buy a license to use any extra spectrum at an auction, as has traditionally been done.

Google, on the other hand, advocates the use of new technologies that would allow the spectrum to be shared by whoever needs it.

___

(c) 2009, San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.).
Visit Mercury Center, the World Wide Web site of the Mercury News, at www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Explore further: DOCOMO and Huawei confirm LTE network over unlicensed spectrum

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Wireless World: Feds vacate airwaves

Dec 30, 2005

The government is getting out of the way of next-generation mobile broadband services -- a new niche being developed by cell-phone companies -- by preparing to spend $936 million to move its radio communications onto an obscure ...

FCC wireless auction begins June 29

Feb 02, 2006

The Federal Communications Commission will auction advanced wireless service (AWS) licenses for the United States in late June.

Bills support broadband over TV spectrum

Feb 23, 2006

Two bills recently introduced in Congress aim to provide consumers with greater access to wireless broadband via unused broadcast television spectrum called "white spaces" or "empty channels."

Recommended for you

Bringing emergency communications together

Aug 21, 2014

A new University of Adelaide research project aims to improve emergency operations through integrated communications systems for police and the emergency services.

For top broadband policy, look no further than Canada

Aug 20, 2014

You might have seen communications minister Malcolm Turnbull raising the issue about Australian press not discussing policy problems and solutions from overseas, in a speech delivered at the Lowy Institute Media Awards last week: ...

Cities, states face off on municipal broadband

Aug 19, 2014

Wilson, N.C., determined nearly a decade ago that high-speed Internet access would be essential to the community's social and economic health in the 21st century, just as electricity, water and sewers were in the previous ...

New loss mechanism for global 4G roaming

Aug 19, 2014

A loss mechanism that has not been an issue in previous mobile handset antennas will become important for global 4G roaming, according to results of experiments carried out in Aalborg, Denmark.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

docknowledge
not rated yet May 07, 2009
Read: Other companies are using wireless that Google wants for itself.