Tag Archives: white space

Microsoft discovers Google’s business model in spectral gaps


Me too.

Microsoft’s TV white space broadband initiative is many things – a worthy effort to expand Internet access, a way of squeezing more useable bandwidth out of finite radio spectrum, a call to action for rural economic development and, as willingly acknowledged, a business opportunity.

It is also a foray into the market economics of free software. White space is the gaps between active television channels, which vary according to where you are in relation to whatever TV stations might be around. The proposed solution to this spectrum management problem is active management via databases run by private companies. Like Microsoft.

Or like Google. Which opened up its database to all comers four years ago. Microsoft’s answer, which is wrapped in a well articulated but completely ordinary white paper about rural broadband access, is to offer up its intellectual property in a similar manner…

Our Rural Airband Technology Program will make our U.S. patents available under a royalty-free license to all comers, including to our competitors, for any work they undertake to stimulate broadband access through TV white spaces. These patents help tackle common problems associated with TV white spaces in a variety of ways…

Microsoft’s database-driven TV white spaces technology has continuously been improved through the use of machine learning that populates, maintains, and improves the content of the database, and cloud-based analytics to respond to database queries that, for example, leverages prior spectrum assignments for particular devices.

Google went from a Silicon Valley garage start up to being (at times) the world’s most valuable company by amassing vast quantities of data, giving away software that can make efficient use of it and then making gigabucks as the resulting traffic passed through – and made detours into – its servers.

In that context, its open access white space venture was nothing remarkable. And from that perspective, neither is Microsoft’s. Except that, well, it’s Microsoft. Welcome to club.

Google’s free white space database could preempt paid competition and boost market


Room for broadband in the television space.

White space spectrum is finally moving out of the lab and toward commercial deployments. Google has opened up its database of usable U.S. white space frequencies to all comers, at no charge. The technology is far from standardised yet, but with free access to the data necessary to make it work, that process can get started.

The idea behind white space spectrum is that frequencies allocated for broadcast television service are not fully used. High power, mega-watt television channel assignments are staggered across different markets, to prevent interference. But a low powered broadband access point in Sacramento isn’t going to bother a television station in San Francisco.

Since the available TV band frequencies vary from place to place, even within a designated market, systems and devices that rely on white space spectrum need a way to figure out what’s available at any given location. The FCC gave the blessing to several companies to provide that information to manufacturers and operators, but Google might have preempted the market by being the first to step out with a fully accessible product and give it away for free.

Developers can sign up with Google and get the APIs that will link their hardware to the database. There are two versions – one for testing and the other to go live.

One vendor is already using the database in a trial deployment at West Virginia University, and GE is testing it for its machine-to-machine communications initiative, according to a blog post by Alan Norman, the overall lead for Google’s broadband access strategy.

Google’s database is a major white space milestone. Now that there’s a legal way for manufacturers and service providers to use the spectrum, at least in the U.S., the regulatory wrangling can give way to market-based competition and standards setting. Game on.