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Broadcasters Urge Delay in Expanding Unlicensed Spectrum Use

In December, when the FCC took the advice of its Spectrum Policy Task Force and launched its inquiry into expanding the use of smart, unlicensed transmission across a wide range of frequencies, the promise of new and innovative spectrum uses dazzled at least some of the commissioners.

Chairman Michael Powell even invoked the United States' conquest of the West and exploration of space in his comments on the potential of the technology-already commonplace in consumer devices such as PDAs, cordless phones, garage door openers and baby monitors.

But broadcasters see it differently. In a joint statement to the commission, NAB and the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV) argued for a delay in expanding the use of unlicensed devices in the broadcast spectrum (below 900 MHz) until after the digital TV transition is complete.

"Injecting additional uses of already crowded broadcast spectrum will obstruct and burden the transition, draining its momentum," the associations wrote. "Moreover, the adjustment period that broadcasters and the public are undergoing to resolve co-channel DTV interference has already been difficult. An initiative to introduce secondary sources of interference and at this stage would delay or derail the transition."

NAB and MSTV urged an examination of the benefits of television, the establishment of robust equipment performance standards and a strong mechanism for dealing with the interference issues they say will inevitably arise.

The Consumer Electronics Association, on the other hand, recommended the FCC go even further with its inquiry. CEA suggested greater use of the 5 GHz band for wireless local area network (WLAN) devices to expand the reach of broadband systems into homes, for example. The FCC's inquiry concerns spectrum below 900 MHz and in the 3 GHz band.

CEA also advised the commission against its proposal of performance standards for receivers in the fight against interference, calling the idea "a solution looking for a problem." Sinclair Broadcast Group is leading a campaign to have the FCC require minimum performance standards for DTV tuners.

"The rate of technological change is too rapid for the commission to be misled into codifying receiver standards, technologies or operating criteria," CEA wrote. "Mandating standards for broadcast receivers is inconsistent with the Task Force's concentration on more flexible policies and market-driven requirements, and 80 years of successful operation in the marketplace without restrictive performance mandates. The low cost and high performance of broadcast receivers is unmatched."