NAB Petitions FCC to Shut Down White Space Database

WASHINGTON—That whole white space database honor system is just not working out. The self-registration system designed to keep unlicensed devices from interfering with licensed TV spectrum operations has “fatal flaws,” according to the National Association of Broadcasters. The NAB is petitioning the Federal Communications Commission to shut down the databases—or at least certify the entries—and clean them up.

“You can enter a location in Idaho and use the device in New York,” said Rick Kaplan, NAB’s executive vice president and general counsel.

Locational data is the linchpin of preventing interference because it’s used to correlate open TV frequencies in a given area. The image above, from Google’s spectrum search tool, shows no open frequencies in most of Los Angeles and California’s Coachella Valley. Users in those areas could register devices in another location and operate them whever they wish. Such erroneous data can render untraceable interference, something the NAB says is preventable.

“Geolocation,” Kaplan said. “You put that in the device, you solve the location problem.”

When the FCC proposed opening the TV band to unlicensed devices in 2009, broadcasters lobbied it to require geolocation and spectrum-sensing technology in the devices. The commission declined, opting instead for “professional installation.”

“The FCC required ‘professional installation,’ but didn’t define it,” Kaplan said. “You can become a professional installer by installing it.”

Whereas now, registrants manually enter geographic coordinates into the database, the process could be automated and verified through geolocation technology. The NAB’s petition said it would add “no more than a few dollars” to the cost of current white space devices, which “cost well in excess of $1,000.”

Kaplan said the second major flaw in the database system is that “liability rests with the consumer… if you’re a database administrator, you should be liable for patently false information in your database.”

The NAB’s Bruce Franca conducted multiple analysis of the database system over the last year.

“At various points, more than one-third of fixed TV band devices in the database contained patently inaccurate location information, including multiple devices registered in the middle of empty fields, or to a single family home, and some even registered in foreign countries,” the NAB petition said.

The misinformation is “threatening to render the entire TV white space spectrum-sharing construct an unworkable morass,” it said.

The FCC farmed out the management of the white space database and has approved of four administrators so far: Telcordia of Piscataway, N.J.; Spectrum Bridge of Lake Mary, Fla.; and Key Bridge of McLean, Va., and Google, based in Mountain View, Calif. Each has a different number of registered devices, NAB executives said.

The database, as accessed through Google’s link, shows 551 fixed TV-band white space devices registered by fewer than 100 parties. (See a summarized list here.) Spectrum Bridge has the most devices registered, with 471. Google has 69; Telcordia shows 11. None show up for Key Bridge. Registering parties comprise regional telecoms, universities, municipalities, libraries, device makers and a few mysteries.

Among telecoms, Carlson Wireless in Arcata, Calif., for example, has been actively developing in white spaces for some time. It’s projects include a white space broadband network in California’s Gold Country, white-fi trials with WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C., and a library white-fi pilot with Google. Carlson has 11 device listed; or 12 if the standalone entry from Carlson’s white space expert Shamus Jennings is legit. It includes no address or contact information.

The same is true of four entries from a “lin sun” [sic]. Another 53 entries list lin sun at 25 E. Trimble Rd. in San Jose, Calif. The address appears to be the location of Public Wireless, maker of small cell technology with job openings in San Jose and San Juan, Puerto Rico. No “lin sun” is listed among the principals.

One John Q. Public has registered four devices, all of them with Telcordia. Jane Doe of None, None, has one device registered with Telcordia.

During an NAB conference call with reporters, one had obtained a statement from the FCC saying that the agency was aware of the problem and working to correct it. Kaplan said the NAB notified the commission of the problem last August, and that some of the erroneous information was corrected, but nothing’s been done to stop the continued entry of false data.

“False information in the database greatly increases the likelihood of harmful interference to licensed users, including over-the-air television, wireless microphones, wireless handsets and wireless medical telemetry service,” the NAB said.

“When left to their own devices, many TV band device users routinely enter false location information, either through error or mischief,” the petition said. “To compound the problem, because many users also enter false contact information, the FCC and licensees do not even know whom to contact to resolve any problems… The FCC must revise its rules to solidify a spectrum-sharing framework that functions for all operators in the TV bands—and that may serve as a model for sharing in other spectrum bands in the future.”

October 6, 2014
FCC Proposes New Rules for White Space Devices
The rules will also allow wireless microphone and white space device operations in the 600 MHz “duplex gap” and guard bands adjacent to 600 MHz spectrum licensed for wireless operations after completion of the incentive auction.

March 4, 2013
White Space Databases Go Live Nationwide
The white-space databases to be used by unlicensed devices to find open TV frequencies can now operate nationwide. The authorization means that new, consumer unlicensed devices can now be introduced to the public.

February 27, 2013:
FCC Opens Google White-Space Database for Public Trial
The trial is a public test run of the system to be used by unlicensed devices to identify unoccupied TV channels in the television broadcast frequency band. All those affected are encouraged to weigh in on the trial.

January 23, 2013:
Tokyo Group Unveils Regional TV White Space Prototype
A trio of Tokyo-based technology developers have created a prototype white-space device based on the IEEE 802.22 Wireless Regional Area Network standard.

December 6, 2012:
White Space Databases Go Live Next Month
The mic system was beta launched in September by the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology on the Eastern Seaboard.