SBE Angry at FCC Over Philips White Space Permit

The Society of Broadcast Engineers is up in arms about a Special Temporary Authority issued by the FCC Experimental License Division to Philips Electronics for testing of white space devices in the Washington, D.C., area.

The license, granted May 1, was re-issued a week later with the deletion of a condition that Philips coordinate operations with the SBE.

“It is the unexplained and arguably politically motivated deletion of this prior coordination condition that triggers this letter,” SBE General Counsel Chris Imlay said in a May 14 letter to FCC Office of Engineering and Technology Chief Julius P. Knapp.

The letter expressing SBE’s “extreme disappointment” says that years ago, the OET agreed to attach coordination conditions to experimental licenses and STAs in order to avoid or quickly detect interference that might result.

Imlay said in an interview that SBE isn’t trying to stop the tests—it just wants to know when and where they will take place.

He said that another company with potential white space devices, Adatrum, has a similar STA for operations in California, but that authority includes the provision for coordination with SBE.

He says that in phone conversation with commission staff, he learned that staff had determined the Philips activities were short-term and unlikely to cause interference.

That’s where SBE wonders if the influence of former OET chief Edmond Thomas, now representing the White Spaces Coalition, may have played a role.

The Philips license covers May and June, and “Interference from these devices is extremely likely (notwithstanding indoor operation at 50 mW of power) to BAS operations, and uncoordinated use of the device is even more likely to result in interference,” the SBE letter said.

“If such operation causes interference to BAS operations, it will be difficult or impossible to isolate the source, absent an accurate database,” SBE said. “So, the deletion of the coordination condition makes it a sure bet that no harmful interference, if there is from this operation, will be reported to the commission.”

The Association for Maximum Service Television has also objected to the arrangement.

“The experiment would operate on TV Channels 28, 31, 41 and 44, and may cause interference to viewers watching WETA-DT (Ch. 27), WHUT-TV (Ch. 32), WPXW-DT (Ch. 43) and possibly WJLA-DT (Ch. 39),” MSTV told the FCC May 13. “We observed that a number of low power licensed wireless microphones may be operating on these channels as well. As the license allows for a km zone around NL 38-53-50; WL 77-01-40, it could cause interference in critical areas in the nation’s Capitol including the FCC, the White House, and perhaps Capitol Hill.”