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Google President Calls for Access Beyond the Wire

Regulatory and political policies, and not technological barriers, are inhibiting the spread of wireless broadband, said Google co-founder Larry Page.



WASHINGTON, May 22 – Regulatory and political policies, and not technological barriers, are inhibiting the spread of wireless broadband Internet, Google co-founder Larry Page said Thursday.

Page said that vast swaths of the broadcast television band lie fallow because of the vacant channels wedged between the station frequencies that are used. These so-called “white spaces” could be redeployed by using them for broadband, or high-speed Internet transmissions, Page said.

Page spoke at an event, “Google Unwired,” hosted by the non-profit New America Foundation. Page, who co-founded Google with Sergey Brin, is president of products. Company CEO Eric Schmidt is the incoming chairman of New America’s board.

Page called it a “totally simple brain-dead thing” to use spectrum-sensing technologies that would “know” their geographic location and connect to the Internet only when such transmissions would not interfere with television broadcasts.

Doing this “makes a lot of sense,” and would put the nation on “a path where we are using 99 percent of our spectrum, rather than 3 percent,” Page said at the event, which was titled “Google Unwired.”

Page decried the opposition of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), whose members currently control the television spectrum. The National Cable Television Association (NCTA) has also opposed the move to redeploy channels toward broadband because of concern of interference with cable television reception.

But a group of technology giants, including Dell, Intel, Microsoft, Phillips and Google, maintain that wireless broadband technologies do not interfere with television reception. Page said that prototypes developed by Phillips and other companies have successfully avoided interference with licensed channels.

Refusing to allow vacant channels to be used for broadband could lead America to fall further behind in international broadband rankings, Page said.

In addition to the opposition from the NAB, the makers of wireless microphones, as well as the sports leagues that use wireless transmission during live events, oppose the tech companies’ push into white spaces. Page said he is “totally convinced” that the fears of the NAB are unfounded. The FCC has a “great record” of assuring that no harmful interferences take place, he said.

Public safety officials can also benefit from wireless communications over the vacant channels, said Page. Wireless broadband is more resilient and offers superior services in times of distress than the alternative wired network that is centralized in one location. Corpus Christi, Texas, is one such city, said Page.

Although the United States ranked among the top three or four countries in broadband penetration as recently as 2001, the United States has since fallen to 16th because of what Page characterized as its reluctance to trailblaze. Many countries might follow America’s lead if the United States were to standardize wireless broadband access over the vacant channels.

Page also noted that advancements in technology drive down costs over time. These lower prices, together with other steps to improve connectivity, could enhance economic growth.

Speaking about Google’s other ventures into wireless spectrum, including bidding on other frequencies made available by the transition to digital television and offering broadband access in Mountain View, Page said: “Organizing the world’s information is a pretty big task.” While the company would prefer to avoid providing connectivity, “if we are forced to do access, we will do it.”

While Google is one of the leading champions for the change from broadcast to broadband, Page said his company does not have a direct self-interest in the switch from broadcast to broadband. However, since an increase in broadband availability “translates into more revenue” for Google, Page also said that his company would benefit from increasing the ability of American residents to have access to wireless Internet.

Also addressing concerns about Google’s attempt to structure a joint venture with Yahoo, and to forstall Microsoft’s efforts to acquire Yahoo, Page said: “When you have 90 percent of communications in one company, that is a pretty big risk, especially one with a history of doing bad stuff.”

William G. Korver was a Reporter-Researcher for until August 2008.


CES 2023: Commissioner Starks Highlights Environmental Benefits of 5G Connectivity

Starks also said federal housing support should be linked to the Affordable Connectivity Program.



Photo of FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks (left) and CTA’s J. David Grossman

LAS VEGAS, January 7, 2023 – Commissioner Geoffrey Starks of the Federal Communications Commission spoke at the Consumer Electronics Show Saturday, touting connectivity assistance for individuals who benefit from housing assistance as well as the potential environmental benefits of 5G.

The FCC-administered Affordable Connectivity Program subsidizes monthly internet bills and one-time devices purchases for low-income Americans. Although many groups are eligible – e.g., Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program enrollees – Starks said his attention is primarily on those who rely on housing support.

“If you are having trouble putting food on your table, you should not have to worry about connectivity as well,” Starks said. “If we are helping you to get housed, we should be able to connect that house,” he added.

Environmental benefits of 5G

In addition to economic benefits, 5G-enabled technologies will offer many environmental benefits, Starks argued. He said the FCC should consider how to “ensure folks do more while using less,” particularly in the spheres of spectral and energy efficiency.

“This is going to take a whole-of-nation (approach),” Starks said. “When you talk to your local folks – mayors – state and other federal partners, making sure that they know smart cities (and) smart grid technology…making sure that we’re all unified on thinking about this is exactly where we need to go to in order to drive down the carbon emissions.”

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CES 2023: 5G Will Drive Safer Transportation

More comprehensive data-sharing is made possible by the reduced latency of 5G, CES hears.



Photo of Aruna Anand, Durga Malladi, and Derek Peterson (left to right)

LAS VEGAS, January 5, 2023 – Panelists at the Consumer Electronics Show 2023 on Thursday touted the potential for 5G to make transportation safer by enabling information sharing between vehicles and with infrastructure.

5G is expected to expand connectivity by attaching small cell connectivity equipment on various city infrastructure, including traffic lights and bus shelters. 

More comprehensive data-sharing is made possible by the reduced latency of 5G, said Aruna Anand, president and CEO of Continental Automotive Systems Inc., referring to connectivity communications times. Anand argued that making relevant information available to multiple vehicles is key to improving safety.

“We give more information about the surroundings of the vehicle to the car to enable [it] to make better decisions,” Anand said.

Durga Malladi, senior vice president and general manager for cellular modems and infrastructure at chip maker Qualcomm, described a 5G-enabled “true ubiquitous data space solution” in which vehicles and smart infrastructure – e.g., traffic lights and stop signs – communicate with one another.

Asked for predictions, Malladi forecasted an increased “blend” of communications and artificial intelligence technologies. Anand said 6G is expected to emerge by 2028 and make its way to vehicle technology by 2031.

Both realized and predicted innovations in 5G-enabled technologies have driven calls for expanded spectrum access, from private and public sectors alike. The Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the respective overseers of non-federally and federally-used spectrum, in August agreed to an updated memorandum of understanding on spectrum management

Although relatively new, this agreement has already been touted by officials.

The FCC, whose spectrum auction authority Congress extended in December, made several moves last year to expand spectrum access.

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FCC Seeking Comments on Licensed Spectrum Allocation for Unmanned Aircraft

Amazon began launch of drone deliveries in two U.S. cities late last month.



Screenshot of Amazon Drone via Amazon

WASHINGTON, January 4, 2023 – More than two years after its urging, the Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that it is seeking comment on crafting rules for opening up the lower 5 Gigahertz spectrum band to unmanned aircraft systems, days after Amazon Prime Air began deliveries in two cities using drone technology.

The commission is seeking comments on providing these operators with access to licensed spectrum in the 5030-5091 MHz band for “safety-critical” wireless communications, on whether the commission’s rules on flexible-use spectrum bands are adequate to ensure “co-existence” of ground mobile operations and unmanned aircraft system use, and on a proposal to require such operators to get a license to communicate with air traffic control and other aircraft.

Currently, such unmanned systems operate primarily under unlicensed and low-power wireless communications rules or experimental licenses, according to the FCC. “Given the important current and potential uses for these systems, the Commission will consider ways to improve the reliability of their operations,” the commission said in a release.

“It is past time that we assess the availability of wireless communications resources for the increasingly important remote-piloted aircraft activity we rely on today,” added Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in the release. “The FCC must ensure that our spectrum rules meet the current – and future – spectrum needs of evolving technologies such as unmanned aircraft systems, which can be critical to disaster recovery, first responder rescue efforts, and wildfire management.”

Because it involves flying machines, the rules implicate the Federal Aviation Administration, and because it possibly implicates federal spectrum, it brings in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which governs the federal use of spectrum.

“Accordingly, a whole-of-government approach is needed to ensure that this proceeding addresses the relevant concerns and issues within the responsibility of each stakeholder agency and that our efforts in this area work in complement with those of our federal partners to support and promote the safe and productive operation of UAS,” the FCC said in its notice of proposed rulemaking.

The support for wireless communications with UAS in the 5030-5091 MHz band is not new. In 2020, the FCC released a report – mandated by Congress in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 – that found that “alternative frequencies licensed under flexible-use service rules are a promising option for UAS communications,” and that the commission “begin a rulemaking to develop service and licensing rules enabling UAS use of that band.”

The request for comments come after Amazon, which began deliveries of packages using drones in California and Texas last week, asked the FCC in November to allow near-ground level drones to utilize the 60-64 GHz band to facilitate safe operations of the drone.

Amazon had asked the commission to adopt a new perspective on drones, saying a “drone package delivery operating near ground level operates much more like a last-mile delivery truck than a cargo plane.”

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