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FCC Seeks More Info on Receiver Performance Policy

WASHINGTON —Receiver performance may have spiraled a $3 billion venture into bankruptcy, but it’s getting nary a peep out of the public. The Federal Communications Commission has thus far received one comment in a seven-week period on a white paper suggesting the use of harm-claim thresholds as a measure of receiver performance. The deadline for the initial round of comments has now been extended from June 21 to July 22, with replies due August 7.

“It is the commission's policy… that extensions of time are not routinely granted. In [this] case, however, we find that extending the comment and reply comment periods for remarks on the TAC white paper, its recommendations, and questions posed in the public notice more broadly on receiver performance, will serve the public interest by allowing commenters additional time to review the technical contents and unique policy proposals outlined in the white paper.”

The paper was issued by the FCC’s Technical Advisory Committee in February. It focuses on defining interference limits as an alternative to receiver performance standards, which are opposed by the Consumer Electronics Association. The CEA says performance standards will escalate the cost of devices. The CEA, along with the National Association of Broadcasters and the GPS Innovation Alliance requested the extension. The three lobbies said the white paper has significant implications across their industries.

“Many of their members are involved in the specification and/or purchase of reception equipment; others are involved in its design and/or manufacture,” they wrote in the joint request. “All are vitally interested in, and their businesses depend upon, the clear reception of desired signals.”

The methodology described in the white paper involves establishing signal power levels referred to as “harm-claim thresholds” that one service would be expected to tolerate from another before filing a claim of harmful interference.

The commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology asks if the methodology is a valid approach, if it’s viable for all types of services across the radio frequency spectrum, and what considerations to make for various coding and modulation schemes.

The sole comment filed on the docket, No. 13-101, is from James E. Whedbee, a ham and commercial radio operator in Gladstone, Mo.

“Redefining what constitutes harmful interference may resolve a semantic conflict, but does nothing to change realities on the ground,” he wrote. “In point of fact, if existing interference complaints aren’t resolved and then the subject spectrum is packed with even more competing users, the commission is effectively diminishing the value of that spectrum and decreasing likelihood of innovation. Redefining interference, even with a corresponding improvement in receiver performance, is a dubious approach to regulating unless the goal is to abrogate regulating altogether, leaving the competing parties to hash out their differences.”

The subject of receiver standards rose to the level of Congressional scrutiny following the bankruptcy of LightSquared. The start-ups proposed LTE network was sunk by GPS receivers in the adjacent band that were unable to reject the associated interference. LightSquared filed for bankruptcy in May of 2012. The company is now looking to share spectrum with federal users.

~ Deborah D. McAdams