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FCC Will Test Internet Over TV Airwaves, Again 86

Weather Storm writes "According to MSNBC.com, the FCC will try again to test prototypes on Jan. 24 for transmitting high-speed Internet service over unused television airwaves. The devices were developed by Microsoft and Motorola, among other corporate partners, and will be tested in laboratory and real-world conditions for three months. 'Last year, a high-technology coalition — which included Microsoft, Google Inc., Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp. among others — submitted prototypes they said could transmit broadband Internet service over unlicensed and unused TV spectrum, known as "white spaces." Television broadcasters and the wireless microphone industry say such devices could interfere with programming. The Initial prototype testing failed last July because the devices did not reliably detect and avoid TV programming signals and could have caused interference. If the tests are successful this time and the devices are approved, the coalition plans to introduce commercial devices for sale after the digital television transition in February 2009.'"
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FCC Will Test Internet Over TV Airwaves, Again

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  • by kcbanner ( 929309 ) * on Saturday January 19, 2008 @03:29PM (#22111034) Homepage Journal
    Innocent TV watchers were bothered by flickering images of the internet appearing on their TV.
  • by crow ( 16139 ) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @03:30PM (#22111054) Homepage Journal
    TV broadcasts use a fairly wide frequency band. Just define one small part that is restricted to just TV, and make sure there is no signal on that portion, then use the rest. Of course, you have to recheck periodically, as there may still be some stations that go off the air at night, and you would need to stop using that frequency when they come back on.
    • by Shrubbman ( 3807 ) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @03:42PM (#22111174)
      Well the last time I checked most stations that 'go off the air' really don't, they just switch from actual programming to some really annoying tone squealing over a test pattern.
    • by StarkRG ( 888216 )
      Analog TV broadcasts are not going to be around much longer. Congress signed the execution order for February 17, 2009. After that there'll be a large portion of frequencies that are no longer in use.

      It's like having the really big fat guy in the seat next to you on the airplane getting up to use the restroom and not coming back.
    • by zentec ( 204030 ) *
      It should be *really* easy. HDTV broadcasts in the US have a pilot on the signal, which is there to make it easy for ATSC receivers to find it. As far as the old NTSC signal goes, that shouldn't be all that difficult either since sync is not only repeating, but the largest portion of modulation.

  • That's a really neat idea. If properly implemented, that would significantly expand wireless internet coverage to just about anywhere in the nation. It would definitely help for people who travel a lot. Still, the initial test failures such as not recognizing normal TV signals makes me wonder. If they could figure out how to properly detect regular TV and avoid it, this could be a definite advance in connectivity.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      ...so, you're saying you agree with the article?

      "+2, Interesting"?! Hey, Mods, I agree with the article too!
  • So using 'white space' will provide better internet services to cows and stuff?
    • So using 'white space' will provide better internet services to cows and stuff?

      More likely it will provide some Internet service where there isn't any now.

      But yeah ... I fully expect to see wireless-laptop-wielding cows the next time I pass through a rural area.
    • by SlappyBastard ( 961143 ) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @03:47PM (#22111220) Homepage

      A lot of companies in rural areas won't bother running what really amounts to the last mile of lines needed for DSL and cable. The reason is simple -- they will never recover the cost of running the line.

      Presently, asynchronous satellite service is the only rural high speed internet available.

      A ground-based synchronous wireless system circumvents some of that trouble, but the TV signals are sitting in the only bandwidth useful for reaching down into valleys. The truth is, VHF channels 7 and 8 are the plum spots. They have great range. They are at a low enough freqeuncy that they curve with the shape of the earth, while being high enough that they don't just suck in nearby electrical interference.

      TV sits in the coveted spot.

      • by MacarooMac ( 1222684 ) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @04:03PM (#22111342)
        Point taken.

        Over here (in "Little Britain") a large 'rural area' probably equates to a small city park in N. America - so net accessibility in remote regions is not such a big issue: we simly don't tell them the internet exists.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Have you ever looked at the TV reception issues in an area like Alaska? That's some fun.

          There are parts of the rural mountainous US where you have to use a 10' satellite dish to get anything, and that's from local channels that are rebroadcast off of satellite. There's an old joke that the state bird of West Virginia is the C-band satellite dish.

      • Satellite internet has horrible terms of service - and serious latency issues. Cellular providers cover many under-server rural areas now - I was pleased to learn of the option. It doesn't have the inhibitive installation cost of satellite service either. I'm connecting with speed between 700 and 1000kbps - with downloads speeds around 120kbps/upload speeds around 20kbps. The service is 29.99 unlimited (doesn't count against airtime minutes/no caps) using a tethered phone or 59.99 per month unlimited using
        • Cellular telephones use digital radio signals divided into "channels". One channel gets you a cellular-quality digital voice signal. Cellular broadband is just transmitting IP over 2 or 4 of those same channels.

      • by Kaeles ( 971982 ) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @05:57PM (#22112304)
        Not true, The ISP I work for offers a wireless connection to last mile customers.

        Towns of 300 - 400 people is what we mostly aim at, and We offer decent speeds at least.

        Anyways, I used to work for a satellite based ISP, and it just doesn't cut it quite the same.
        I know we can do a 20 mile link with 20mbps throughput and recover the cost within 6 months if we have 20 customers.

        The big companies aren't even worried about the customers or trying to recover money, they just don't care to take ANY time to spread broadband to rural areas. Its too much of a pain for them.
        • Verizon is doing nothing of the like in western PA, nor is Comcast. Them and a few Atlantic Broadband customers represent the whole target.

          Only only one company, Alltel, is running any decent rural service.

          When I moved into the new house, part of picking the house was making sure I had at least DSL.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            Yep - Alltel - their voice packages are a bit higher than their competitors - by about ten or fifteen bucks a month - but their service does have this great advantage of working - even in remote, rural areas.
        • Similarly, cellular broadband isn't a half-bad solution for rural areas, considering that you don't have to worry about overloading individual towers (which are both ubiquitous and cheap)

          The economics of wireless telecom are so much more favorable that developing nations without an established telecom infrastructure are skipping landlines entirely, and installing cell towers all over the place instead.
        • Funny thing about towns of 300-400 people is that they're likely 30+ miles from each other, with 2,000 more people out of radio range, spread out on thousands upon thousands of acres of farmland, pasture or just tree farms. My in-laws live 20 miles from town, 5 miles from a paved road. Something like 20 families in a one-mile radius, and only one to my knowledge has upgraded past dial-up, to satellite. Half would use the net if the cost were $20-30/mo and reliable, but the phone lines can barely hold a 9
          • by Kaeles ( 971982 )
            Well, our lowest package is 35/month. but thats for a 512down/128up, so I don't think its too badly priced (that, and we actually take a loss on the install to buy the CPE). Anyways, with a slightly better antennae I know that we have pushed a link from a customer to the access point from 15 miles away.
            • by Kaeles ( 971982 )
              Oh, and I forgot to mention that we have pushed links 45 miles from access point to access point, but, it limits the uplink to 15-18mbps, so its harder to do that and provide service to loads of people
      • This is the exact situation my parents (and thus me, when I visit them) are in. They are currently on dial-up, with an average connection speed of around 26 kbps for $10/mo. That is abysmally slow, but satellite access is significantly more expensive. I've heard rumors of long-range wireless becoming available in their area, but again, the price is steep. DSL and cable are not available; they've lived there for 11 years, and it doesn't look as if the situation is going to change.

        On the other hand, with a p

        • The TV channels available depends on a lot of factors. In the right spot here in western PA you can pick up channels from five markets. I can easily get three markets.

          The wireless service would be a huge leap forward for internet service. Also, I suspect that Google would like to liberate itself from the entire net neutrality issue.

          But, the TV spectrum is a bad place to have this fight. It's hard to pick up signals in some areas, and it will be even harder for devices to figure out that they're causin

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Have you priced out just fixing the problem by buying a real connection?

          T1 lines are damn cheap now - I frequently see prices around $400/month. Optical lines start in the low thousands. All it would take is a couple neighbors and setting up a WiFi or even DSL co-op becomes competitive with what you'd expect DSL/Cable to cost.

          Now, that may not be the right answer for getting internet access occasionally at your parents house - but it absolutely is for anyone personally lives somewhere where the telcos won

          • by dupup ( 784652 )

            Have you priced out just fixing the problem by buying a real connection?

            This country-mouse has priced out a real connection. I currently get my broadband over wireless DSL, bounced, I crap you negative, off a neighbor's barn across the valley. We're lucky to have it, but the ISP is very flaky, sometimes leaving us without service for several days until they get around to rebooting their router, or whatever the problem-du-jour is.

            Some neighbors and I spec'ed out a T1. The base cost is less than $400/mo

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by morari ( 1080535 )
        Satellite internet is hardly a solution for those of us who don't want to live in overcrowded, noisy, polluted areas of the world. Even the best satellite internet has poor upload speeds, annoying lag (it does have to travel to and from space, after all), bandwidth limits, and flaky service during rain and snow (and sunspots). Besides, if you live in a valley or on the wrong side of a ridge, your line of sight could be less than desirable and ruin any chance of having even that kind of connection. If you're
        • I don't disagree on any one point. But, considering cable still hasn't been forced into a la carte channel packages, we're a long way from the political will to make cable do anything.
      • A lot of companies in rural areas won't bother running what really amounts to the last mile of lines needed for DSL and cable. The reason is simple -- they will never recover the cost of running the line.

        No, they'd recover the costs eventually. They just don't want to wait as long as it would take.
        • I gotta disagree. Look at the current business environment. If they ran decent DSL, how long would it be before DSL became the ugly little brother to fiber? The technologies need to settle down for a while before the telecoms are going to commit the effort to the lines.

          I'm not aiming to defend the telecoms. I'm just stating their rationale, which is better than it is in many instances.

  • by SlappyBastard ( 961143 ) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @03:41PM (#22111172) Homepage

    Can you even imagine handling TV signal detection in an are like the Northeast Corridor? Anywhere from Richmond, VA to Portland, ME there are so friggin many channels that when you include out-of-DMA channels there simply is no real white space.

    Understand that a channel in the eastern US can be reasonably expected to be detectable up to 100 miles away. For example, I live in central Pennsylvania, and even without atmospheric effects with a decent antenna I can get channels from eastern Ohio.

    Point being that the device is going to pick up a lot of channels. Also, since it is presumed to be mobile, that device will have to shift channels.

    Channel-shifting is where the real nightmare occurs, especially in cities. With path interference, you have total signal dead zones that are three feet away from strong signal. The device could pick a channel, celebrate and start transmitting right into a zone where there would be perfect TV reception and never be able to detect it because of a dead zone.

    Trying to avoid this sort of interference in a practical application is impossible.

    • Not really, but I can imagine using it where I live. If they can achieve last mile quality, it would be a real boon to people who don't live on the Eastern sea board or where ever there is already lots of channels. I would wager that people living there already have some broadband choices.
    • Perhaps you're forgetting the analog TV shut off in 2009? That will free much space in the TV spectrum.
  • What, no revenue? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wireless Joe ( 604314 ) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @03:51PM (#22111252) Homepage
    Isn't that basically what the upcoming spectrum auction is about, transmitting data over unused TV licenses? Except in this case, of course, the FCC doesn't get to collect $billions for the privilege, and Microsoft et al get a free pass to use basically the same resources that the teclos are getting ready to write big checks for. Sounds like the FCC is not meeting its fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders, uh, I mean constituents.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by zoltamatron ( 841204 )
      Not exactly....The FCC is about to auction off all the analog broadcast TV bandwidth when all stations go digital in early 2009. The bandwidth avoidance that these internet boxes will have to do will be greatly reduced when all the analog TV is gone.
      • by Ken_g6 ( 775014 )
        Try again. The FCC is about to auction off a small portion of the UHF band of analog TV broadcast bandwidth, namely 52 through 69 [voip-facts.net]. I believe there's also a small swap between some VHF channels and some emergency channels.

        Digital channels actually occupy the same space as analog channels, and each digital channel occupies the frequency space of one analog channel. The differences are that they can be on neighboring channels without interference (my digital channel equivalent of 11 is on channel 10), and tha
  • Mmm.. BBS over HAM (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eyenot ( 102141 ) <eyenot@hotmail.com> on Saturday January 19, 2008 @03:56PM (#22111290) Homepage
    I wish there was more information about all of this. Specifically, I wish the FCC would be able to give us a template for the upcoming changes to all forms of bandwidth and how they are intended to be used in the future.

    I remember something a fear years ago about the switch to HDTV somehow opening up a range frequencies on the FM dial, and the FCC talking about maybe loosening restrictions on licensing for broadcast in the FM spectrum. I haven't re-heard any of that since.

    I also remember, while I was studying the use of power lines as FM transmitters (apparently the signal is periodically flattened, though, by the transformers), the FCC mentioning something about using the power lines to double as internet. This was just after the DSL market leveled off, I remember. Anyways, there was a lot of talk about how to get that done, and special switches to go around transformers, or something. I haven't re-heard any of that, either.

    I never liked DSL, btw. It seemed like the public was being duped into agreeing that they have no business using modems that fast without paying the phone companies for compensation. That's my impression based on the way the phone companies handled 14.4s and 28.8s. With 14.4s they started saying "you need to tell us if you are using your phone line for data communications; there's an extra fee." They tried to justify that by saying the fee paid for keeping the line more free of noise, which simply wasn't true. I remember a number of SysOps actually letting the phone companies know they were running BBSs off their low-calling-plan phone lines: they still had just as many checksum errors as they ever did, usually because they lived in the rural areas. Then when 28.8s came out, the phone companies started it all over again, except this time their gripe was that the higher throughput was a drain on the company's resources and they needed proper compensation, and threatened that if they found anybody was using their phone line for data without telling them, they would automatically flip you into the higher-paying mode. My impression then was that enough businesses and day-traders had told the company they were using their lines for data and ponied up the extra charge, but found that their signal wasn't any less noisy than usual, and got pissed and complained. Anyways, then DSL came out, and it was the same thing all over again, except that this time the phone companies had the jump on the technology and the right to use it on their lines. They were especially tight-fisted with who's allowed to so much as own a DSL modem, or if they couldn't manage to monopolize that market they were working out exchanges that required the company's leased and serialed modems. I have a question about that; when everybody's onto coaxial and the phone lines aren't being used for data any more, what will all of the "extra bandwidth" there be used for? Not voice: too many people are using cellphones for even their most casual home use, it's just more practical. What good will the phone lines be to us once they aren't getting used?

    About the TV band again. I started reading up on it and learned that Japan had gone digital TV quite some time ago, but was still using the same airspace; they just managed to use compression to fit around two digital channels into the same bandwidth as one of our analogues. Why didn't America ever go into that same system, given how much Americans love both television and varieties? It seemed obvious to me, some time later, that twice as many channels are twice as hard to corner and monopolise. Some may say that deals couldn't be worked out so that manufacturers believed Americans would go out and buy replacement sets; but I still say any deal with a lucrative outcome eventually gets made by somebody, and it was simply obviously more lucrative to keep things tight-gripped rather than allow the market to be widened. We still have our "Big 3" today even though things have changed oh-so-much; when the hell are those disinfo mouthpieces going to fail and just go away?
    • About the TV band again. I started reading up on it and learned that Japan had gone digital TV quite some time ago, but was still using the same airspace; they just managed to use compression to fit around two digital channels into the same bandwidth as one of our analogues. Why didn't America ever go into that same system, given how much Americans love both television and varieties?
      Uh... what do you think we've been doing? If you said "the same thing", you'd be right...
    • I don't know why you were modded off-topic.

      I was going to post on what you did, so let me paraphrase you, maybe that mod will change - and karma aside, you make good points, indirectly addressing other comments. So, here goes:

      TV is mandated to go all-digital soon. All the broadcasters in my market already have. So they're broadcasting VHF TV and UHF DTV (with and without HD variants).

      So what happens to all that VHF and those crowded Eastern corridors when the mandate takes effect? I should research befo
    • I believe the powerline internet you're talking about is called Broadband over Power Lines or BPL. As I recall there was a lot of opposition to BPL because it interferes with the HAM radio spectrum. Hopefully someone more knowledgable can chime in on the discussion soon.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by jimrob ( 1092327 )

        As I recall there was a lot of opposition to BPL because it interferes with the HAM radio spectrum.

        Acutally, it interferes with the entire radio spectrum. When the plan was first announced, the military was one of the most vocal opponents of the plan. I don't know if they still are or not, as I haven't heard much about their opinion lately.

        The ARRL, a sorta-NRA of ham radio, has recently filed a case with a federal court over BPL. The gripe is that the FCC relaxed their rules regarding Part 15 emissions

    • I remember something a fear [sic] years ago about the switch to HDTV somehow opening up a range frequencies on the FM dial

      It's nothing inherent to HDTV... It's just that broadcasters are now abandoning VHF-low (CH2-7) en-masse, and CH6 happens to cover the lower end of the FM spectrum. CH5 was just below the FM range, so it could potentially be extended (downward) as well. I really don't expect either...

      I never liked DSL, btw. It seemed like the public was being duped into agreeing that they have no busi

      • by jimrob ( 1092327 )

        HAM radio is very noisy and unreliable, since it depends on the ionosphere for propagation. HAM radio is also used over extremely small bits of bandwidth, barely enough for one-way, intelligible speech.

        Have you even used a ham radio? I suppose if you're expecting a high-def audio experience, a 2.2kHz bandwidth voice signal may seem "barely intelligible." That's only for SSB, however. FM has 5kHz audio bandwidth, AM has 10kHz bandwidth. All are comperable to what you'd get on a landline telephone. (Unle

  • by nick_davison ( 217681 ) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @04:40PM (#22111674)
    I've just signed up for fiber optic to the home. My TV signal is now getting delivered over my internet connection as IPTV - which should free up the TV spectrum to deliver internet - which I can then get IPTV on.

    I think my head hurts. But I'm pretty sure we invented perpetual motion somewhere in there.
  • I hope I am wrong about this, but if the internet gets transmitted over TV airwaves, wouldn't the FCC automatically gain authority to censor anything they dislike or dictate is 'offensive' -- just like they do with television and radio in America?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by calebt3 ( 1098475 )
      Clearwire isn't bound by those laws. This broadcasting will be happening on the same frequencies as TV, but it won't be in a format a TV can make sense of.
    • I'm not really clear why the FCC has been given authority over the content that gets broadcast, not just the signals being used. Especially in recent years when you get fundamentalists enraged because content is available for and targeting other groups is allowed on TV. It just seems like a total waste to allow the FCC is promote one set of opinions over others in the most accessible medium available for massive communications.

      I suspect that they would require special authority to regulate the internet in t
  • Yes, I know Microsoft makes money on BD, but from recent articles here, it looks like they may well lose and take a bath on HD DVD.

    Market associates BD with Sony and Apple, HD DVD with Microsoft.

    This isn't about the internet over TV airwaves.

    This is about Microsoft leveraging their new HD knowledge to reuse that bath water to one-up the ease of use and delivery of iTMS movies and the Apple TV Take 2. And it's about giving their DRM a new life for a hegemony.

    They're never going to catch up (hell, as if I _k
    • by bommai ( 889284 )
      What are you talking about? Apple is in the BD board, not in the HD-DVD board.
      • Yes, Apple is on the BD board.

        Apple is making new strides into HDTV w/ iTMS and the newer version Apple TV. They bundle nothing with BD yet.

        Microsoft invested heavily in HD DVD, whose future is uncertain.

        So, I postulate that Microsoft wants - and is willing to invest - in internet over soon-to-be-used VHF airwaves with a TiVo-like phone-home, to facilitate HD movie purchases, with what they hope would be easier access than Apple's iTMS, perhaps more marketable, with another profit component by having the r
  • Are they going to have repeaters all over the place or just one antenna. If just one antenna they are going to need a lot of power. Some UHF channels run a megawatt. Plus, where does the uplink go? Through the phone lines?
  • I must be really dense. How the heck does over-the-air TV broadcast get anything from the home back to the net? Dialup?
    • Per my insistence that this is really the harbinger of Microsoft HDTV/DRM to come, then yes, the set-top rig or the integrated-into-Dell-TV rig phones home.

      Just like TiVo. Proven model.
    • I must be really dense. How the heck does over-the-air TV broadcast get anything from the home back to the net? Dialup?
      I was wondering the same thing. How do you "transmit" Internet service over a one-way medium?
  • If internet access goes out over TV frequencies, does this give an "in" for the FCC to control internet content?
  • I work in this field for one of the corporations involved in this work with the FCC, and am involved in cognitve radio for TVWS work. If you do a search of the internet using the phrase "cognitive radio" you will get a better idea for how the systems will work. There will be lots of small access points (initial generations of the systems will be about the size of a cigar box). Mobile stations (endpoints such as phones) will function in one of two modes, either tethered or in peer-to-peer.

    The trick to

  • It seems to me that they are (still) dying to make the internet a one-to-many model like traditional tv and radio.  Sure, you upload requests, but this technology clearly could not handle a high "up" bandwidth.
  • TV channels 2-6 will be the biggest waste of spectrum in the history of broadcasting. Within the continental USA, there will be 29 DTV stations in this 30 mHz of prime spectrum. There will not be a single channel six in the entire state of California! There will be five channel sixes in the entire eastern half of the USA! This utter waste of spectrum is appaling!
  • This system will work decently. Spread spectrum radio is common today in your cell phone, your wireless house phone, and every wifi card everywhere. the concept of a defined frequency for a defined service is on the way out. Much like DC electricity, it was used for a lot of reasons, but as time goes on, a smart radio system will become common. The six megahertz needed for an analog signal is today like using a steam engine for commuter rail. You can do it, and it works, but it's not a clean or simple
    • the concept of a defined frequency for a defined service is on the way out. Much like DC electricity, it was used for a lot of reasons, but as time goes on, a smart radio system will become common.

      You do realize that 90% of the stuff you use actually runs on DC power, right? Let's take a looksie:

      your WHOLE computer: yes
      your tv: yes
      your cell phone: yes
      your telephone: yes
      your network equipment: yes
      your car: yes
      your PDA: yes
      your game console:yes
      your everything battery operated: yes

      alright, so that's a lot of stuff...sure, yes, your fridge, stove, and vacuum don't...but they could just as easily...we should all be on DC power, we wouldn't have to use all the power sapping AC/DC converters. Ya know tha

  • Remember how the porn channels came in as that garbled mess that you couls still identify some stuff. Imagine the possiblity that you are surfing the net in the other room and your significant other changes the channel to say channel 69 and finds that you are looking at porn. What do you do?!
  • Personally, I don't want my gaming sessions interrupted by commercials every 10-15 minutes. ;p

Recent investments will yield a slight profit.