Microsoft disputes FCC’s rejection of devices slated to use white spaces

The computer giant admitted its first prototype was defective, but claimed that another model had worked successfully

Microsoft is disputing recent findings by an FCC lab that its prototype wireless Internet devices could interfere with broadcast television signals. At the same time, high-tech companies don’t plan to let up on their campaign to use spectrum white spaces for a new generation of unlicensed mobile devices.

In a document filed with the FCC last week, Microsoft admitted its first prototype was defective, but claimed that another model had worked successfully in a demonstration given FCC earlier in the month.

Microsoft is one of several major high-tech companies, including Intel, Google and Dell that want to use white space as a way to connect mobile devices to the Internet. Proponents of the technology argue that TV-spectrum-based Internet service would be less expensive and more accessible than current phone and fiber-optic lines, forcing other high-speed web service providers to lower their prices.

However, television broadcasters, DTV set manufacturers, sports leagues, cable operators and phone companies claim such use of the spectrum could cause interference, potentially harming the upcoming DTV transition.

Two weeks ago, FCC engineers found that Microsoft’s original prototype caused interference on existing broadcasts. However, the company claimed that its new prototype “reliably detected occupied television channels.”

NAB’s Dennis Wharton expressed confidence in the accuracy of the FCC’s report, charging that Microsoft’s “self-serving” agenda may jeopardize “America’s access to interference-free television reception.”

He was joined by Panasonic, Samsung, Hitachi and LG Electronics, all DTV set makers. “In light of the results of its recent studies, the Commission should not authorize devices that rely solely on spectrum sensing, but instead should move forward with its more developed proposal concerning fixed devices that use a geolocation/database approach to interference avoidance,” the manufacturers said.

Not so, says the opposition. “We don’t think anything the commission did in its testing in any way diminishes the potentiality of white-space devices,” said Ed Thomas, former chief engineer at the FCC and now technology policy adviser and partner at Harris Wiltshire & Grannis, the firm representing the White Space Coalition.

“We still believe that the white spaces could be used without causing harm to broadcasters. And we want to work with the commission to product the services of incumbent licensees.”