WASHINGTON: The television spectrum opened up for unlicensed
devices is to be managed by nine companies. The Federal Communications Commission
adopted an order Wednesday naming Google, Comsearch, Key Bridge and six others as
conditional designees to manage a white space database.
The purpose of the database is to track open channels, or white spaces, within the
TV spectrum, and communicate those channels to unlicensed devices. It will be the
sole source of interference protection for TV signals and wireless microphones.
The final rules opening the TV spectrum to unlicensed devices were adopted last
September after two years of deliberation and reconsideration. Preventing interference
with incumbent licensees was a pivotal criterion. Broadcast lobbies pushed for spectrum-sensing
technology in addition to a database. Spectrum-sensing technology would enable individual
devices to detect unoccupied spectrum.
Companies vying to make what came to be called “TV band devices,” or TVBDs, said
spectrum sensing was unnecessary. Microsoft has been testing TVBD prototypes for
two years. Its early spectrum-sensing technology
failed repeatedly in
lab tests, but broadcasters came to support the feature as a backup for the geo-location
database. Wireless Internet service providers stepped into the ring last year and
opposed spectrum sensing on the grounds it would result in denials of service on
The FCC ultimately nixed the spectrum-sensing requirement from its original rules,
but allowed that it “expected” device makers to voluntarily incorporate it. The
rules governing TVBDs went into effect Jan. 5.
The FCC’s white space database will list the radio frequency channel assignments
for all the TV stations and other protected fixed operations in the country. TVBDs
will have to ping the database to determine what frequencies are free in a given
location at a given moment.
Broadcast lobbies favored a single database manager to avoid confusion. The FCC
went with all nine that submitted proposals, in part as a model for future arrangements.
“While the operation of multiple database administrators may present some coordination
challenges, we find it is in the public interest to have multiple parties developing
business models for this new mechanism,” the order said. “The value of this exercise
extends beyond databases for the TV bands, as the commission is also considering
employing similar database approaches in other spectrum bands.”
The commission granted conditional designation to the nine because the final rules
were issued after their proposals were submitted. The designees are expected to
file supplemental information on their original proposals, but the FCC said each
had sufficient “technical expertise” for the task, as well as viable five-year business
plans. The companies will be allowed to charge fees for “fixed TVBDs and temporary
broadcast auxiliary fixed links.”
The National Association of Broadcasters and the Association for Maximum Service
Television objected to all of the proposals, saying they didn’t fully comply with
the FCC’s white space rules. Some of the designees went after each other. Key Bridge
Global LLC of McLean, Va., blasted Google and Comsearch for conflict of interest,
since both intend to make TVBD technology.
“We intend to exercise strong oversight of the TV bands databases and administrators,”
the FCC order said. The commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology will hold
mandatory workshops for the designees on how to comply with database rules. Each
individual database will be subject to a 45-day trial before it goes live--longer
if the FCC finds problems.
The first such workshop is scheduled for Thursday, March 10 at the FCC’s lab in
Columbia, Md. The nine conditional designees are as follows:
Mountain View, Calif.-based
the largest of the nine to submit a proposal. It
was one of the main proponents behind opening TV airwaves up to unlicensed devices,
along with Microsoft, Dell, HP, Philips and Intel.
of Ashburn, Va., works with
several federal agencies on developing rules and standards for using radio frequency
spectrum. The company currently manages a spectrum database in the 70-90 GHz band
as well as one tracking wireless medical telemetry services. It submitted a 55-page
to the FCC.
of Sterling, Va., threw in to
be a database manager. The company’s proposal
notes that it manages the database for cell-phone number portability. In addition
to databases serving wireless carriers, Neustar administers the .us and .biz domain
Key Bridge Global LLC
said it is only
applicant to bring in technology from other companies. Key Bridge’s proposal listed
Sun and Oracle hardware, Amazon’s cloud computing resources, Level 3’s infrastructure
as well as contributions from Java, Linux, Google and Paypal, among others.
a Washington, D.C. consultancy,
and LS Telcom of Lichtenau, Germany,
submitted a joint
proposal. KB’s founder developed the FCC’s Universal Licensing System, and LS
creates spectrum-management software used by militaries, governments and private-sector
of Toccoa, Ga., and
RadioSoft of Edgewater, Fla., jointly applied. Their proposal says
RadioSoft has been processing FCC databases since 1981, and has “supplied third-party
FCC data queries online since 1987.”
was formed just to manage a
white space database. Neither its filings nor
its home page indicate location
headquarters, though its initial investor is based in Dallas. It proposes to create
an application programming interface to enable real-time synchronization with other
of Lake Mary, Fla., has helped launch local white space Wi-Fi systems in Claudeville,
Va.; Wilmington, N.C.; Plumas County, Calif.; and Lake Mary.
N.J., makes software for telecom providers. Its proposal says
the company has provided “engineering, economics and legal support direct to 40
spectrum regulators and 25 wireless network operators” over a quarter century.
Deborah D. McAdams