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September 14, 2010

Microsoft News - Microsoft Reportedly Planning Devices for the 'White Spaces' Spectrum

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

According to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft (News - Alert) is preparing for the introduction of powerful new wireless Internet networks to be deployed on unused television airwaves or so-called “white spaces” in the U.S. Dan Reed, Microsoft's corporate vice president for technology strategy and policy, said that after the FCC (News - Alert) finalizes its rules for the use of "white-spaces" TV spectrum, devices that use the spectrum could be widely available for consumers within two to three years. “White spaces” refers to frequencies that have been allocated to a broadcasting service but not used locally.

Microsoft is reportedly developing basic blueprints for white-spaces devices that may include mobile phones and laptops. "We're certainly in discussions about standardizing hardware specifications for white spaces," said Reed.

The WSJ reported that it's unlikely that Microsoft will develop its own white-spaces devices; rather, it is believed the company will follow its usual policy of turning to the sort of hardware partners it's relied on over the years to build mobile devices and computers containing its software. Said Reed, “That's our expectation, that that will continue to be the case.”

According to CNET news, Microsoft has been testing new technology that uses the unlicensed spectrum on its Redmond, Washington campus. The company built the wireless network using only two base stations to transmit the signals via the white spaces spectrum. Signals that use the white spaces spectrum travel at least three times further than signals transmitted over other unlicensed spectrum, such as WiFi (News - Alert). This means it can cover an area that is almost nine times as large as one that uses WiFi, and because it operates at a much lower frequency than Wi-Fi, it can penetrate buildings much more easily.

The FCC is expected to finalize rules for use of the white-spaces spectrum at its open meeting Sept. 23, 2010.

Once the FCC makes its ruling, Microsoft is not the only company with plans to launch white spaces devices. Google, Hewlett-Packard (News - Alert), Intel and Motorola are all reportedly testing white spaces products.

Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Juliana Kenny

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