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FCC launches field tests of white space device prototypes

The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) said July 10 that field testing of prototype TV white space devices (WSDs) would begin this week.

The tests are being conducted as part of the commission’s rule making to consider authorizing operation of such devices in the TV broadcast spectrum on unoccupied channels. They follow a series of bench tests, which together constitute the second round of FCC OET white space device testing.

The question of whether to authorize use of unlicensed consumer RF devices in TV spectrum has pitted portions of the computer industry, wishing to use the spectrum for a variety of applications including wireless broadband Internet service, against the broadcast industry, some in the medical device industry, and wireless mic users and vendors.

For broadcasters, the issue comes down to protecting their investment in DTV transmission technology as well as that of over-the-air viewers in DTV receivers and antennas. Broadcasters fear wandering consumers with white space devices will generate harmful interference to DTV signals, which in many instances will be generated by sources that are virtually impossible to track down.

Proponents of the devices repeatedly have sought to assure the commission and WSD detractors that a variety of approaches, including frequency sensing technology, can be successfully employed to prevent DTV interference. Additionally, they contend WSDs will usher in a host of benefits to consumers.

WSD testing is open to the public.

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