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One More Broadband Wireless Network Option Emerging

On Election Day, the Federal Communications Commission (let's hope all the employees had time to vote) was quite busy. After months of deliberation and having sparked a considerable amount of controversy, the federal agency opened up one more chunk of wireless spectrum for mobile communications.The federal agency has been working to free up wireless spectrum in the 700Mhz band, which had been used for analog television transmissions. The companies delivering content in that band will have to move their transmissions to another frequency in 2009.

Vendors, such as Google and Microsoft, had petitioned the FCC to use the new bandwidth for mobile devices. These advocates stated that opening up the spectrum would help bring mobile broadband to under-served regions and close the Digital Divide between many urban and rural areas in the United States.

However, their plans were met with a lot of resistance. Television broadcasters were concerned that the new transmissions would interfere with their content. Wireless carriers sitting in adjacent slices of spectrum voiced the same concerns. Consequently, it was unclear whose argument the FCC would favor.

The FCC forged a compromise of sorts. The agency opened up the band to wireless devices but mandated that their products include sensing capabilities that would automatically shut the device down if it interferes with adjacent spectrum.

The ruling is only a first step in the process to transforming the band from television to mobile media. The agency will have to auction off spectrum to interested parties, companies like Google and Microsoft will have to be compliant devices, and then these services and devices will need to be rolled out to customers. When that happens, small and medium businesses that have not been satisfied with their local telecommunications, cable, or satellite Internet service providers will find themselves with another option for broadband Internet access.