Christmas has come early (again) for Google.
Months after the company successfully lobbied for open access to enable applications and services to run on more mobile phones, and drove up Verizon's cost for the C-block 700MHz wireless spectrum, the Federal Communications Commission has unanimously agreed to open up the "white spaces spectrum."
White spaces are unused airwaves between broadcast TV channels. By "opening them up," the FCC has essentially paved the way for greater access to wireless broadband service for consumers and businesses in the United States.
Google co-founder Larry Page, who has traveled to Washington, D.C., to fight for access to white spaces, said in a blog post the move means the public will soon have "Wi-Fi on steroids."
Sounds dramatic, but what he really means is that white space spectrum signals have greater range than today's Wi-Fi technology. This means broadband access can be installed with fewer base stations, lowering the cost and barrier to entry. Page wrote:
"This is a clear victory for Internet users and anyone who wants good wireless communications. ... As an engineer, I was also really gratified to see that the FCC decided to put science over politics. For years the broadcasting lobby and others have tried to spread fear and confusion about this technology, rather than allow the FCC's engineers to simply do their work."
Page said Google also looks forward to working with the FCC to finalize the method used to compute power levels of empty channels adjacent to TV channels, which he said is a vital issue in urban areas. Silicon Alley Insider's Dan Frommer notes the challenges here.
This is great news for Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other companies looking to profit from the proliferation of Web services and applications over mobile handheld devices, such as smart phones. These companies are positioning themselves to rule the very green field of mobile digital advertising. All have a horse in the race.
T-Mobile just launched the G1, the first smart phone based on Google's open-source Android operating system; the search engine giant hopes many more carriers offer devices based on Android.
Similarly, Microsoft offers Windows Mobile, a leading mobile operating system, and hopes to target search and display advertising. Mobile advertising may also be a last-ditch effort for Yahoo, which is hemorrhaging cash, stock value and talent.
The addition of the white spaces spectrum could boost the mobile footprints for all of these companies, and create new competition for Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, et al, which didn't want the spectrum clogging up wireless headsets and other spectrum.
So, the telecoms are left to grumble about white spaces, but FCC Chairman Kevin Martin seemed to want to please everyone, approving the merger of spectrum between Sprint and Clearwire for a nationwide WiMax network and approving Verizon's $28.1 billion deal to buy Alltel.
GigaOm's Stacy Higginbotham notes the impact this will have on the wireless market here.