Google Jan. 4 petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to make it an administrator of a geolocation database for white spaces, the unused spectrum between channels 2 and 51 on TV sets that aren't hooked up to satellite or cable services.
Internet companies such as Google want to leverage this spectrum to make "Wi-fi on steroids" actionable for consumers of computers, smartphones, e-book readers or other devices that use this spectrum.
The FCC agreed to open the white spaces to unlicensed use in November 2008, but it it required that a database be deployed before consumer electronics companies could start selling devices that use this spectrum.
Before sending or receiving data, these devices will be required to connect to the database to determine what frequencies can and can't be used in a particular location. That way, licensed television and wireless microphone signals will be protected from harmful interference, noted Google Washington Telecom and Media Counsel Richard Whitt.
Google helped form and launch the White Spaces Database Group last February, but said then that it had no desire to be a database admin. Whitt's only allusion to the about-face is this:
"We've been working with other stakeholders to exchange ideas and perspectives on how to best operate a working database, and we believe we're in a strong position to build and successfully manage one."
In other words, if Google doesn't do it, no one else will, or at least not with the care and feeding Google would provide. Google, of course, stands to benefit from a proliferation of mobile computing devices.
The more devices running anywhere on Wi-Fi, the greater Google's opportunities to serve ads to consumers of those devices and Google Web services.
Google's move comes just hours after the Department of Justice told the FCC it should make more spectrum available to wireless broadband providers to promote competition in high-speed Internet services, which is currently dominated by the telephone and cable industries.
This is an area where the DOJ and Google would seem in complete accord; Google is taking steps to weaken telco companies' powerful grip on communications. The company today is expected to launch its Nexus One smartphone unlocked to let users pick their wireless carrier.
Here is Google's proposal for a TV Band Device Database Management Solution: