FCC continues tests of white space spectrum

The FCC has completed lab tests of equipment that might be used to distribute wireless Internet service using white spaces spectrum. Next, the commission says it will take the tests into the field.

FCC spokesman Rob Kenny said the FCC is planning a second round of testing that will likely take place over the next few weeks. The commission’s engineers are still looking at devices from Philips, Motorola and Adaptrum, a Silicon Valley white space startup.

The tests continue amidst a flurry of political lobbying. The White Spaces Coalition — which includes Dell, Google, Microsoft and Philips — last week charged that most wireless microphones in use in the United States are illegal to begin with, and that Shure Brothers, a major microphone manufacturer, has been using scare tactics on the issue.

Wireless microphones, called ��Part 74 devices” under FCC rules, are only to be used under license by broadcasters. However, over the years, they have popped up in just about every concert hall, house of worship and Broadway show. The vast majority are unlicensed and, technically, illegal devices.

Now the coalition is calling on the FCC to make such wireless microphone use legal and is supporting an anti-interference plan that includes not just spectrum sensing, but “protection beacons.”

The coalition proposes an amnesty for wireless mic users and the sale of low-cost licensed beacons that would warn of interference in advance from white space devices. The coalition estimates such beacons would cost between $30 and $40 each.

If the wireless community accepts the coalition’s proposal, that leaves only the broadcasters to complain. And the broadcasters have already complained.

David Donovan, president of the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV), claimed that beacon sensing doesn’t work and will not provide sufficient protection to TV viewers or wireless microphone users. He called the coalition proposal “simply not credible.”