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Google: We're One Step Closer to Super Wi-Fi

Thursday Google business operations principal Larry Alder said that Internet users are one step closer to a world with "super Wi-Fi."

According to Alder's blog, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "conditionally designated" nine companies (pdf) as administrators for "white spaces" databases, naming Google as one of the nine. These will be used to coordinate the usage of the vacant TV channels (aka white spaces) for high-speed wireless broadband networking.

"This action will allow the designated administrators to develop the databases that are necessary to enable the introduction of this new class of broadband wireless devices in the TV spectrum," the FCC said.

Unlike the frequencies used today for wireless Web access, signals using white spaces will travel farther, making the use of vacant TV airwaves ideal for wireless Internet connections and data guzzling smartphones. The databases will store information about the availability of white spaces, keeping track of the different wireless signals in the spectrum so that they don't interfere with each other.

As an example, the databases will tell TV band devices which TV frequencies are available for use, and which are vacant in a specific area. Compatible devices will be required to include geo-location hardware, and to check in with these databases when in use.

As Alder indicated, this is a huge step forward for Google, as for years the company has backed the use of the vacant airwaves for high-speed wireless broadband. The company even submitted a proposal to the FCC to build and operate a database last year.

However the drawback to this method of white spaces management is that administrators like Google may charge companies (wireless carriers, etc) that use the new spectrum. Google claims that it "has no current plans to rely on user fees."

Previously there were fears that administrators like Google would use the information stored in their databases to manufacture white spaces devices. The FCC quickly put those fears to rest by restricting companies from gathering the information to "stifle" competition.

There's a lot of work that still lies ahead before consumers see a "super Wi-Fi" set in place. The FCC will work closely with the administrators-- using hand-on testing-- to make sure databases provide accurate information about what signals are available. The FCC will also set up a series of mandatory workshops so that administrators remain compliant with FCC rules.

The eight other companies supplying white spaces databases include Comsearch, Frequency finder Inc., KB Enterprises LLC and LS Telcom, Key Badge Global LLC, Neustar Inc., Spectrum Bridge Inc., Telcordia Technologies, and Wsdb LLC.

Companies that plan to use the new spectrum include Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Sprint Nextel.