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Microsoft Nudges FCC to Wrap White Spaces

WASHINGTON: Microsoft is leaning on federal regulators to finalize the rules for operating unlicensed devices in unoccupied TV channels. A select team of Microsoft executives met with staff at the Federal Communications Commission last week to exalt the use of so-called “white spaces” for long-range Wi-Fi-like connections.

Dan Reed of Microsoft “described a range of the potential white spaces applications, including whole-home or whole-building wireless networking; campus-wide networking; entertainment and gaming; municipal operations such as environmental monitoring and security; rural broadband access… educational networking; machine-to-machine communication; and inventory and logistics,” the ex parte FCC filing documenting the meeting stated.

Reed, corporate vice president of Technology Strategy and Extreme Computing, described Microsoft’s white-space trials at its Redmond, Wash., campus, and one expected soon in the United Kingdom using the company’s SenseLess TV channel database technology. U.S. regulators are requiring that unlicensed devices ping a TV-channel database in order to locate unused frequencies and not interfere with TV signals.

Microsoft is one of 10 companies proposing to manage such a database. Its SenseLess technology “combines knowledge of every licensed TV signal in the U.S. with detailed topographic maps and models to determine how signals dissipate over distance and terrain,” according to MIT’s Technology Review. Microsoft is also expected to build some sort of unlicensed device, since it supplied prototypes to the FCC for testing.

Such devices likely would communicate their position to the database through integrated GPS technology, which is now the subject of interference from LightSquared, an emerging satellite broadband initiative It’s not yet clear how the LightSquared factor would affect the efficacy of a white-space database in preventing unlicensed-device interference with TV channels and wireless mics, which operate in the TV band.

The Microsoft detachment urged the FCC to rule on pending petitions for reconsideration and to determine the white-space database managers. They also asked the FCC contingent to resolve a recommendation in the National Broadband Plan to establish “a new contiguous unlicensed spectrum band.”

~ Deborah D. McAdams , Television Broadcast