Friday, July 20, 2007

The 700 MHz Club

The spectrum is a key resource in providing mobile, wireless broadband access. Google claims it has supported open access to the spectrum. Dana Blankenhorn says, "All this idealism has a practical political point. Google aims to break the cellular oligopoly that has slowed the U.S. wireless industry throughout this decade." But not, he says if the Bell companies can do anything to stop it.

Paul Atriuch at Wikinomics writes:



An interesting battle is taking place in the seemingly boring area of broadband wireless spectrum auctions. Broadband spectrum, which carries voice and data to mobile devices, is leased from the government to wireless service providers. Traditionally these have been telecommunications companies, such as Verizon and AT&T, who build the infrastructure to deliver wireless services. The telecommunications companies would have near full control over their networks, being able to dictate the kinds of handsets, applications and software that worked with their system.

But the rules may change with the upcoming auction which is set to take place in the near future. Google, which is looking to enter the wireless market, has proposed four rules that would open up the access to the networks allowing more competition. The new rules would allow consumers to download any content or application and utilize any handset or wireless device they wish. Google also proposes that third parties should be able to buy access to the spectrum at a reasonable price and that different networks will be able to interconnect.

If all four rules take effect, the business models of telecommunications companies will be severely affected by the new competition. It is likely that customers would win as new entrants, including Google, create innovative services and prices are driven. It will be up to the FCC to decide whether the benefits to consumers warrant a more open approach.

Some observers are, of course, suspicious. Don Reisinger at CNet writes:

And while this story has already been skillfully reported on, I couldn't help but wonder what Google has up its sleeve. So, after some deliberation, here are my thoughts ... With full leasing ownership of the 700MHz spectrum, Google will try to effectively cripple the cell phone industry. Before you scoff ... the most compelling of those terms is that Google is requesting "open devices" that will work on the "open networks." In other words, Google wants to create the ability for companies (and most likely itself) to create devices that will seamlessly connect to the broadband spectrum. Why can't one of those devices be a phone?

Whether you realize it or not, Google's bread and butter is advertising. The company doesn't need to charge money for its services because the advertising will bring home the bacon. ... So you heard my justification, now I'll tell you how it'll work. If the FCC agrees to the terms outlined above, Google will definitely win the auction. Once its wins, its executives will soon realize (as if they haven't already) that this spectrum can go through walls and reach just about anywhere. Even better, it'll create a speedy broadband connection.

Within no time, Google will announce that wireless will be made available to the public through its system. After all, it did it in San Francisco, why won't it do it all over the country? In effect, Google would run a "third broadband pipe." Once the company announces the wireless broadband to the nation, it will immediately announce that Google Phone everyone has been talking about. The Google Phone will work specifically with the Google system (kind of like Skype) and will be free of charge. The only fee to the consumer is the cost of buying the phone, which can be done over the Google checkout system from online retailers or at fine brick-and-mortar retailers nationwide.

As soon as the phone is released, people will be tossing their iPhones, Razrs and every other cell phone into the nearest river. Why pay all that money for a phone when you can have the same kind of service for free? Now we have to solve the mystery of how Google will make money. To be honest, I don't think it'll be too difficult. Google thrives on using services it doesn't charge for, and why should this be any different?

And you thought conspiracy theories were only popular on the fringes? Then again, could it be true?

5 Comments:

Blogger Alex Sloat said...

The part of this that frightens me is that Google's ads are successful because they're context-sensitive. Blog ads are based on blog contents, search ads are based on search terms, and email ads are based on emails. So are they going to stack the phone with voice recognition to deliver context-sensitive phone-based advertising? It'd seem to be how they'd have to do it to earn enough to matter.

And the worst part about this line of thought is that I'm not sure it's impossible.

7/21/2007 04:32:00 AM  
Blogger Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Not to pick nits ... it's MHz -- mega Hertz -- after Heinrich Hertz (1857-94) who observed "I do not think the wireless waves I have discovered will have any practical application."

This is radiation out in the UHF band, about 45 cm wavelength, so a relatively near neighbor to our better-known FM radio bands.

7/21/2007 05:51:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

bart,

Thanks. Fixed.

7/21/2007 05:55:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

The 700 MHZ spectrum is part of that originally allocated to UHF TV, about 490 MHZ to 890 MHZ.

Few people realize it, but cable TV uses frequencies allocated to other purposes, including not only broadcast VHF TV (channels 2-13) but also those allocated for Aircraft navigation (108 to 118 MHZ) aircraft communciations (118 to 135 MHZ), various other communications from 135 MHZ up to VHF Channel 7 at 175 MHZ and then those for such things as military aircraft communications up above TV Channel 13.

So there is a "parallel universe" between cable TV and broadcast uses. I once tuned in the approach control freq for NAS Pt. Mugu and got the soundtrack to "Grease", which was playing on HBO at the time - obviously, there was a leaky cable line in the vicinity. Must have been fun for the pilots trying to land.

The traditional approach has been to hold the transmitter at fault for interference, even if he was doing something perfectly legal. People don't like finding out that they purchased a TV set or stereo accidently desigend to receive Amateur Radio communications or something else they don't want to get.

As more and more freqs get used, it will be interesting to see who gets blamed for what. Most wireless devices now have some fine print on the back that says "You're on your on when you operate this!" The next step is wrelss interfaces between DVDs, TV's and Stereos - and then it is gonna get real interesting.

7/21/2007 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Moiz said...

Wether we accept it or not , Google and Apple are going to be the two flagship companies for atlest the next few centuries.

I have no doubt Google will get this 700Mhz band and change our perception of cellular service .

I see Google with coming out devices which will be Google Portable , with Voice being a service on it along with many other features

7/23/2007 04:14:00 AM  

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