FCC Seeks Feedback on Receiver Standard Alternative

WASHINGTON – Regulators are mulling a radio frequency receiver performance policy. The Federal Communications Commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology has opened a comment period on the elements of a receiver performance white paper issued by its Technical Advisory Council in February.

The white paper focuses on defining interference limits as a means to creating receiver-performance policy.

“This approach would make it easier to determine which party bears responsibility for mitigating harmful interference when it occurs, by specifying signal power levels called ‘harm-claim thresholds’ that a service would be expected to tolerate from other services before a claim of harmful interference could be made,” the commission’s Public Notice states.

Setting such harm-claim thresholds would avert the need to set receiver performance standards, something the consumer electronics industry strenuously opposes because of costs.

“Harm-claim thresholds provide incentives for operators to improve receiver performance on a voluntary basis, whereas receiver mandates require improvement,” the white paper says.

The commission is looking for feedback on specific points in the white paper as well as the overall policy approach. It is asking if the harm-claim threshold method is viable for all types of services across the spectrum and what should be considered with regard to various coding and modulation schemes, for example.

Receiver performance efficacy is becoming more imperative as the spectrum becomes more crowded with services, and the FCC finds itself in the position of needing to change frequency usage designations. Such was the case with LightSquared, the company that proposed building a 4G LTE wireless broadband network on spectrum designated for satellite transmissions. LightSquared secured a waiver of the rule limiting terrestrial transmissions on the spectrum, but its plan was subsequently shot down when it could not demonstrate that the network would not interfere with GPS devices operating in adjacent spectrum. The company, in which investors had placed nearly $4 billion, went bankrupt.

GPS device manufacturers technically were responsible for building devices that rejected interference from adjacent frequencies, but they were not expecting to deal with powerful ground-based transmissions. Setting harm-claim thresholds could anticipate the development of another LightSquared situation.

Pierre de Vries of the University of Colorado’s Silicon Flatirons Center in Boulder is the principal author of the white paper. de Vries testified before Congress last November on the issue of receiver standards. He said they should be a “last resort,” and proposed the alternative of establishing harm-claim thresholds that defined the “interfering signal levels that must be exceeded before a service can bring a harmful interference claim.”

Comments are due June 21, 2013 on Docket No. 13-101; replies are due July 8.

~ Deborah D. McAdams

February 7, 2013,
Bendov: Efficient Spectrum Use Calls for Receiver Standards
The majority of TV stations operating today could be accommodated in a spectrum band ending at Ch. 37—if receivers were subject to performance standards.

November 29, 2012,
Lawmakers Look Into Receiver Performance
There are viable alternatives to federal receiver performance standards, witnesses told lawmakers at a hearing today.