Sports leagues keep up pressure on white space issue

Major sports leagues and their associates have told the FCC not to approve any wireless devices operating unlicensed on the white spaces between TV channels because it could interfere with their wireless microphones.

The long-running saga heated up again last week when the NFL, MLB, NBA, PGA of America, NHL, NCAA and ESPN pitted themselves against Google and other high-tech companies asking for use of the white spaces in DTV spectrum for unlicensed, mobile wireless devices.

The spectrum would be used to offer the public low-cost wireless Internet access through laptops, mobile phones and smart radios. The latest proposal, which the sports leagues oppose, is a promise from Motorola to protect against interference.

“Now is not the time for the commission to be distracted by proposals that rely on unproven, yet-to-be-developed technical fixes,” the leagues said in response to that proposal. “Google suggests that wireless microphone users purchase and install ‘beacons’ in order to jam white space-device transmissions, rely on channels 36-38 for microphone transmissions and, as a last resort, should count on spectrum sensing for interference protection.”

“Each of these elements is flawed,” the letter continued. “Strapping together several deficient proposals under a new name simply does not add up to a solution to this difficult problem.“

The high-tech companies maintain that technological fixes exist for possible interference issues. The FCC is currently testing the devices in the lab, and it will eventually move to field-testing.

The white spaces, which are not licensed to the sports league or broadcasters, are a public resource that could offer major benefits. A majority of the FCC’s commissioners have said that they believe there is a technological fix to the interference problem.