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Microsoft named administrator of the “white spaces” database

Despite concerns from television broadcasters, the FCC has appointed Microsoft to be an administrator of the white spaces database. It joins nine other companies tasked with managing the spectrum to reduce interference.

Despite a late filing, the FCC appointed the computer giant to its list of companies. “We find that Microsoft has shown that it has the technical expertise to develop and operate a TV bands database,” the FCC said.

The commission approved the nine companies that users of unlicensed devices must check in with to insure they are not interfering with digital television stations operating on the same frequency band. The services are to be overseen by the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET).

“While the operation of multiple database administrators may present some coordination challenges,” the FCC said, “we find it is in the public interest to have multiple parties developing business models for this new mechanism. The value of this exercise extends beyond databases for the TV bands, as the Commission is also considering employing similar database approaches in other spectrum bands.”

While unlicensed devices must access a database to make sure licensed users don’t already occupy frequencies, a white-space database also must maintain a registry of fixed unlicensed devices and protected services such as full and low-power TV transmissions, broadcast auxiliary facilities, private land mobile and commercial radio operations.

The commission issued a call for white-space database managers in late 2009. Nine responded, and all were conditionally designated in January of this year. Microsoft didn’t apply until last April. The FCC, who found nothing in the rules to prohibit Microsoft from being named, appointed the company last week.

“None of the concerns raised by any of the commenters in the record before us causes us to conclude that Microsoft is not capable of meeting all the requirements placed on database administrators by the Commission’s rules,” the OET wrote in granting the approval.

Engineers for the Integrity of Broadcast Auxiliary Services (EIBASS) had argued against letting Microsoft into the group because it filed late and did not include relay and translator stations among those it would protect. Microsoft also missed an entire class of licensed TV stations entitled to protection as well, the group said, and it overstepped an experimental license in Las Vegas during the last NAB show.

Microsoft, along with Google, were among the companies pushing the FCC hardest to open up the “white spaces,” while broadcasters fought potential interference to their new DTV signals. Tension between broadcasters and Microsoft has been evident for a long time.

The other companies acting as administrators include Google, Comsearch, Frequency Finder, KB Enterprises and LS Telcom, Key Bridge, Neustar, Spectrum Bridge, Telcordia Technologies and WSdb.

All of the companies will be subject to a trial period of at least 45 days.