FCC Frees White Space Spectrum for Wireless Broadband Service - Money to be Made
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Now that we know how the newly opened white spaces will benefit consumers, how will it benefit the Internet as a whole? In the simplest of terms, there is a whole lot of money to be made. The spectrum will spur a major era of innovation around wireless products and services, essentially doing for wireless broadband what other unlicensed spectrum has done for short-range wireless technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
It can be argued that the earning potential for small business and big businesses is -- for the first time -- equal, because the spectrum used to create these products is free, which means it's easier and cheaper for companies of any size to develop hardware or software applications that use the wireless spectrum. The possibilities are endless, but one fact remains: those who develop these products and services capable of using the spectrum without interfering with services running on the licensed spectrum in adjacent bands will be at the forefront of the next major Internet business boom, and they will bring in millions, even though the spectrum is free.
As a way of putting it into perspective, take Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology as an example. Millions of people throughout the world have used Wi-Fi routers to extend their broadband connections to create home networks. Almost every laptop shipped today has Wi-Fi embedded as a standard feature, and a growing number of portable devices like cell phones are also coming with Wi-Fi. What's more, millions of people have also used Bluetooth-enabled devices like wireless headsets and other cell phone accessories. These white spaces are projected to create technology that will become more lucrative than, and just as commonplace as, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Wireless operators are already starting to position themselves for the next generation of wireless. Sprint is building its 4G WiMax network. AT&T and Verizon Wireless have committed to using a 4G technology called LTE. Both of these technologies use licensed spectrum. Verizon will be using spectrum it won in the FCC's 700MHz spectrum to build the service. And even though wireless carriers have talked in broad terms about new business models emerging for this next generation of wireless, it's unlikely the service will ever be free and it's quite likely that it could be at least as expensive as today's wireless service.
Technology companies hope that opening up white spaces will allow new players to enter the market to create services with different business models. For example, free access to spectrum could allow providers to offer service for free or at least at a much reduced price. This could potentially put competitive pricing pressure on traditional wireless carriers and force prices down for the benefit of consumers. For now, all we can do is patiently wait it out to see if white spaces truly are the next wave of wireless broadband.
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