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Microsoft urges FCC to finalize white spaces rules

A team from Microsoft has visited the FCC to push for quicker adoption of rules governing the use of white spaces for wireless Internet connections. The first devices, which transmit long-range wireless data signals through gaps in TV spectrum, will start to appear later this year.

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

At the meeting last week, Dan Reed, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of technology strategy and extreme computing, described a range of the potential white spaces applications. They included 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.

Reed described a trial expected soon in the United Kingdom using the company’s SenseLess TV channel database technology and discussed wireless technology being used on its campus in Redmond, WA.

Microsoft is one of 10 companies proposing to manage a database and build devices. It’s SenseLess technology combines every licensed TV signal in the United States with detailed topographic maps and models to determine how signals dissipate over distance and terrain. Microsoft is also expected to build one or more unlicensed devices, since it supplied prototypes to the FCC for testing.

Devices using white spaces would likely 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 is unclear if the LightSquared issues will slow down deployment of the technology.

U.S. broadcasters have long argued that using white spaces will cause interfere with digital television signals. The FCC overruled that contention. They are requiring that unlicensed devices signal a TV channel database in order to locate unused frequencies and not interfere with TV signals.