Sports teams lose white spaces battle

The FCC unanimously voted to set aside white space spectrum for low-cost, high-speed Internet access and new unlicensed wireless devices, against the opposition by major sports broadcasters, among others.

Sports teams argued that the use of portable unlicensed devices would interfere with wireless microphone systems, broadcasters claimed the use of portable devices would interfere with their DTV signals and all had asked the FCC to delay the decision for public comment.

The FCC members said, after testing of the devices, that interference with wireless microphones or broadcast signals was not a major risk. The FCC will allow hybrid devices that use both geolocation and spectrum sensing, but there will be numerous conditions, including power limits, on approval of devices that rely only on sensing technologies.

All the commissioners said the ruling could lead to development of a new generation of devices that use the spectrum to provide low-cost Internet access. The members said such access could be more reliable than Wi-Fi, which also uses unlicensed frequencies but do not reach as far.

Later, the FCC released the rules it has adopted for the use of TV white spaces. It noted that wireless microphones will be protected in a variety of ways.

The locations where wireless microphones are used, such as sports and entertainment venues, can be registered in the database and will be protected. In addition, Channels 2–20 will be restricted to fixed devices, and the FCC said it anticipated that many of these channels would remain available for wireless microphones that operate on an itinerant basis.

In addition, in 13 major markets where certain channels between 14 and 20 are used for land mobile operations, the commission will leave two channels between 21 and 51 free of new unlicensed devices and, therefore, available for wireless microphones.

The FCC said it has required that wireless devices include the ability to listen to the airwaves to sense wireless microphones as an additional measure of protection.

To download the complete 130-page FCC order, visit