NAB and White Space Device Makers Agree on Geolocation

WASHINGTON—Broadcasters and makers of TV white-space devices have come to the table to solve a potential interference problem, according to the National Association of Broadcasters.

“NAB and the TV band device manufacturers recommend that all TV band devices incorporate automatic geolocation capability or be under the control of a device that includes that capability,” the parties wrote in a joint letter to Julius Knapp, chief of the Federal Communications Commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology.

The concurring device makers include Adaptrum, Carlson Wireless Technologies, KTS Wireless and Meld Technology, which together represent more than 95 percent of deployed devices registered in the FCC’s white-space databases.

The databases were designed to prevent the unlicensed TVWS devices from interfering with TV signals and depended on manually entered geographic coordinates. When the FCC proposed allowing the operation of unlicensed devices in unoccupied TV channels in 2009, broadcasters lobbied it to require geolocation and spectrum-sensing technology in the devices. Device makers balked at the associated expense and the commission declined.

Several database administrators were approved over time (including Google) and TVWS devices slowly deployed. The NAB’s Bruce Franca started poking through the databases last year and found that about one-third of registered TVWS devices had incorrect location information, including open fields, single-family homes and foreign countries.

As a result, a TVWS device could be operated in Los Angeles, where there are virtually no open frequencies, simply by registering it elsewhere in the database.

The NAB subsequently petitioned the FCC to shut down the databases and fix them. (See “NAB Petitions FCC to Shut Down White Space Database.”) The NAB and the device makers are now asking the FCC to change the rules to reflect the inclusion of geolocation technology that will tell the databases where the device is being used. They recommend that, “all TV band devices incorporate automatic geolocation capability or be under the control of a device that includes that capability.” The geolocation technology would be accurate within 100 meters.

The parties suggested that existing inventory be grandfathered and be allowed to continue working through the transitional period, and to require geolocation compliance one year after the rules are modified, or Jan. 31, 2017, whichever is later.