White Spaces Could Give Black Eye to Carriers

The opening up of White Spaces for Internet access (both for computers and mobile devices) could be quite a dramatic development. We wrote about this two years ago:

The idea is to create wireless broadband using this spectrum that will effectively ensure continuous and near-universal coverage for internet-connected devices (fixed and mobile). Unlike conventional radio/wireless spectrum, the “unlicensed” part of this means that no one has to pay anything to the FCC to use it. That stands in contrast to the nearly $20 billion paid as part of the recent 700MHz spectrum auction earlier this year (dominated by AT&T and Verizon).

The New York Times reports that the FCC is about to open this spectrum up in the immediate future:

This month, the F.C.C. is likely to approve what could be an even bigger expansion of the unlicensed airwaves, opening the door to supercharged Wi-Fi networks that will do away with the need to find a wireless hot spot and will provide the scaffolding for new applications that are not yet imagined . . .

The stronger, faster networks will extend broadband signals to bypassed rural areas and allow for smart electric grids, remote health monitoring and, for consumers, wireless Internet without those annoying dead zones. 

While "no one knows" how this will impact the market in the long term, here are some predictions:

  • At the most mundane level, fewer dead zones
  • More price competition for traditional Internet access providers
  • Many more connected devices often without a separate access subscription (access built in like Kindle)
  • Perhaps true mobile calling and data alternatives to the carriers 

Recognizing the potential threat, carriers, ISPs and other vested interests will attempt to "corner or co-opt" the spectrum to prevent some of these low-cost scenarios from coming to fruition.