Microsoft Corp. has turned its headquarters campus into a single wireless hot spot, giving workers in scores of buildings and aboard a shuttle bus a steady Web link to test a potential $4 billion market.
Google Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Motorola Inc. and Sprint Nextel Corp. are also making plans for a new era of wireless video and data traffic using vacant airwaves previously reserved for television. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission plans to vote Sept. 23 on releasing the spectrum for nationwide use.
“We’re going to do something big here,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in an interview. “This is very high- quality spectrum.”
The radio waves travel in gaps between television channels known as white spaces, and like TV signals they carry long distances and through building walls. Uses may include easier Internet connections, remote monitoring of industrial systems such as power plants and taking over some mobile-phone traffic to ease sluggishness for users of devices such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone.
Thousands of routers for the established wireless technology known as Wi-Fi would be needed to equal the coverage Microsoft provides at its Redmond, Washington, campus through its white-space system, said Dan Reed, a corporate vice president for the world’s largest software company.
The U.S. will be the first nation to deploy the technology, which is being examined by the United Kingdom, France and Brazil, Genachowski said. The action is the most significant release of unlicensed spectrum in 25 years, and will help fulfill the Obama administration’s pledge to almost double the airwaves available for new wireless devices, he said.