Sunday, December 2, 2007

Google to Join Spectrum Auction

Seeking to shake up the wireless industry, Google said Friday that it was preparing to take part in the federal government’s auction of radio frequencies that could be used to deliver the next generation of Internet and mobile phone services to consumers.

Google said it would file its application on Monday to bid on the valuable 700-megahertz spectrum, which is being vacated by television networks as they convert their signals to digital. The formal bidding process is scheduled to begin on Jan. 24.

Google has said it will bid for the so-called C Block of the auction, which it could use to offer nationwide wireless broadband service that competes with digital subscriber line service and cable Internet access. Other bidders are expected to file their intentions with the Federal Communications Commission on Monday. Both AT&T and Verizon Wireless have indicated that they will also bid on the spectrum. Industry analysts also expect major cable operators to bid for some of the smaller pieces of the spectrum.

Whoever wins, the auction is expected to usher in a new wave of flexible wireless computing. Bowing to consumers groups and Internet companies like Google, F.C.C. commissioners mandated that the companies that win the new spectrum must give consumers the right to use any compatible device on the network and to use any software applications they choose on that device.

The major mobile operators currently restrict consumers’ choices on the devices and software they can use on a wireless network. Earlier this week though, Verizon Wireless said it would move to make its network more open next year. That will allow consumers to buy compatible phones outside of Verizon stores and software developers to write programs for those phones without Verizon’s permission.

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