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Google: We Really Tried To Get 700MHz License

Google bid against itself a few times

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Now that FCC requirements on not discussing the wireless spectrum auction have passed, Google disclosed a little information about the process and their participation.

Google added a little more spin to their position that losing the national C block license to Verizon actually ended up being a good thing for everybody.

Richard Whitt and Joseph Faber, counsels on Google staff, discussed the attention-getting auction on the official Google blog. They touted achieving Google’s top priority, which was to get the bidding for the C block license up over $4.6 billion to activate the open devices and open applications requirements for the winner

“In ten of the bidding rounds we actually raised our own bid – even though no one was bidding against us – to ensure aggressive bidding on the C Block,” the blog post said. “That helped increase the revenues raised for the U.S. Treasury, while making sure that the openness conditions would be applied to the ultimate licensee.”

Google’s strategy looks like it represented an approach to secure a couple of goals. First was to get the open devices and applications requirement attached to the auction winner; Google never believed it could win this auction, based on Whitt’s comments in July 2007.

The second part comes down to their efforts to gain access to the white spaces within bands of the spectrum won by Verizon. T-Mobile and Sprint complained about potential interference with white space wireless access to the FCC in January.

The basic idea about white space access allows Google and its partners in the Wireless Innovation Alliance to set up shop within the 700MHz spectrum. We think there could be a flaw in Google’s plan, one that could stop the white space effort in its tracks.

When Google first said it wanted four open requirements on the auction to guarantee their participation and ensure the FCC would receive no less than $4.6 billion from the rights to 700MHz, the FCC only accepted the two open requirements we mentioned, devices and applications.

It’s long been our position that these were the least important of the two. People can bring wireless phones to carriers that aren’t part of the line of officially offered phones, and get service. As far as applications, other than Skype or any other VoIP client there doesn’t seem to be any difficulty downloading something like Opera Mini onto a phone, even with an existing web browser on the device.

The FCC rejected Google’s other two requests, for open networks and open services. We envision a legal challenge to the white spaces supporters if they ever manage to keep their wireless broadband signals from interfering with TVs and wireless microphones.

It isn’t hard to imagine Verizon telling a judge that using the white spaces infringes on their rights to the spectrum. Open networks and services were not a requirement of the auction winner, and wireless broadband in white space falls more logically into those categories than into open devices or applications.

We like the vision Google has for wireless access, but it seems they need to hope for a change of political parties in the White House, a subsequent replacement for Kevin Martin as FCC chairman with someone more forward-thinking on wireless issues, and possibly a legal decision in their favor over white space access.

Google: We Really Tried To Get 700MHz License
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