Monday, February 11, 2008

Google enters wide-open wireless world

Can you imagine Google running a cell phone company?

You may love Google, ignore Google or fear Google. But one thing is certain – it innovates. And it’s not far-fetched to believe it would do the same in the cell phone business.

The wireless industry is atwitter these days with the possibility that Google may actually get a chance to turn the cellular industry on its head.

That’s because the 700 megahertz range of the electromagnetic spectrum (the nation’s airwaves) is up for sale in an auction being conducted by the Federal Communications Commission. Technically speaking, the FCC doesn’t sell the airwaves, but rather sells licenses to companies in exchange for the right to operate within a particular radio frequency.

And the licenses that have attracted the most buzz are in the 700 Mhz slice, referred to by auction-watchers as the C Block.

It’s the portion being vacated by analog television signals when TV makes its big switch to digital next year. Part of the rationale for switching TV to digital signals was that it would free up valuable airwave real estate which would, in turn, lead to creation of new wireless services and a big payday for the federal government. The anonymous bidding on the 1,099 total licenses available in this auction topped $18 billion this week after more than 30 rounds of bidding.

The so-called C Block is attractive to companies for several reasons.

First, the FCC is auctioning a nationwide license (as well as some regional ones) in the C Block. A company that places the winning bid can then build a nationwide wireless network, as opposed to building a network that only operates in parts of the country.

Secondly, electrical engineering gurus say the 700 Mhz slice lets signals easily penetrate walls and go farther than other portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. That gives the winner’s phones and gadgets some distinct advantages over competitors’ phones and gadgets.

Read the article here: TimesLeader

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