Martin reaffirms stance on unlicensed white space

February 5, 2007

FCC chairman Kevin Martin renewed his vow last week to use white spaces in the broadcast spectrum to accommodate unlicensed wireless devices.

Earlier, the FCC began a proceeding to free up the space between TV station frequencies for use by wireless broadband providers. Though Martin prefers that the devices be unlicensed, the matter remains unresolved.

In a Senate Commerce Committee oversight hearing last week, Martin was asked by Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) about the white spaces issue.

Martin said that licensing would require a lengthy, complex process of identifying the spaces to be used. The FCC would prefer, he said, to ensure against interference and let devices operate without a license.

The initiative would permit low-power unlicensed devices such as laptop Wi-Fi cards, wireless keyboards and network routers to use the white space between broadcast channels 5 to 51.

Broadcasters, who fear a flood of new devices would be difficult to monitor and could interfere with digital TV signals, oppose the unlicensed approach.

The FCC contends that broadcasters' fears of interference are unjustified in a technological age that includes "smart radio" transmitters and receivers.

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