FCC set to trial first database for Super Wi-Fi

Call it what you want, but Super Wi-Fi, or white spaces broadband, just got a big win today when the Federal Communications Commission approved the first trial using the radio and database needed to deliver white spaces broadband. The FCC said on Wednesday that it would publicly test the database operated by Spectrum Bridge (see disclosure). We expected this move, and it’s an essential step in bringing white spaces to the market— perhaps before the end of the year.

Coincidentally, I met today with Carlson Wireless CEO Jim Carlson, who is showing off his devices that work with a database product from Telcordia, and recorded a brief interview about what we can expect from this technology (such as the potential for up to 56 Mbps down). Check it out:


Telcordia is one of ten companies that have been approved to operate a white spaces database, and like Spectrum Bridge, it has sought approval from the FCC. John Malyar, chief architect at Telcordia, said the FCC’s approval today is good for everyone because it means the agency finally has a process in place to evaluate and approve the interaction between the database and the radios. This is essential because the spectrum used by white spaces is also used by broadcasters and wireless microphones.

The database will help ensure that someone’s Facebook status update doesn’t interrupt a nearby concert or a neighbor’s attempts to watch PBS. The goal now is to get white spaces networks deployed in rural America, selling the base stations and radios to wireless Internet service providers, possibly smart grid operators and into other industries.

Because there is a question on whether white spaces is endangered by the FCC’s attempts to get broadcasters to give back some of their TV spectrum, Carlson says he’d like to act quickly to get rural residents using the airwaves so it’s harder for the FCC to then take them away again and license them to cellular carriers. After more than three years of covering white spaces, I have to say that spectrum politics are some of the messiest around.

Disclosure: Spectrum Bridge is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.