Google, Facebook join white-spaces advocacy group

The group spearheaded by Microsoft and others will push for access to unused spectrum

Google and Facebook have joined the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, an international group advocating access to unused spectrum for broadband networks based on so-called "white spaces" technology.

Microsoft, U.K. carrier British Sky Broadcasting and other partners formed the DSA in June. On Monday, as it began its first annual meeting, the group announced new members and gave more details about its aims. Communications chip vendor Texas Instruments also recently joined, the 32-member group said.

White-spaces technology can take advantage of radio spectrum that may be assigned to other services but isn't currently in use nearby. Microsoft and Google have led the fight for white-spaces regulation in the U.S., focusing on wireless data services on unused parts of TV broadcast spectrum. The system uses an approach called dynamic access, in which a white-spaces device determines whether the spectrum is being used by others before it starts operating. All devices approved so far by the FCC use a geographic database of licensed spectrum users to do this.

Most white-spaces implementations are still in the trial stage. In 2009, the first public network was set up in Claudville, Virginia. Microsoft launched a pilot project earlier this year to provide wireless broadband to a rural part of South Africa.

The DSA's meeting is taking place in Bangkok in advance of the ITU Telecom World conference there. The group will call for making unused spectrum available for dynamic access, for technology-neutral regulations that allow different platforms to coexist, and ultimately for making dynamic access the default way of regulating spectrum. Some advocates say all spectrum can be shared and licensing or assigning frequencies for specific uses is inefficient.

The group's scope extends to Africa, Asia and Latin America in addition to Europe and North America. One topic at its meeting will be providing affordable wireless broadband to underserved communities around the world, a goal that both Facebook and Google are also promoting in other forms. Participants from developing countries, such as the Botswana Innovation Hub and service provider WaveTek Nigeria, are among the DSA's members.

Google has created a database of unused spectrum in the white-spaces band that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission approved for public use earlier this year.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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