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White space device controversy heats up

The next skirmish in the battle between high tech interests seeking to use broadcast white spaces for unlicensed wireless device services and broadcast interests determined to protect their spectrum and the DTV transition is unfolding in Washington, D.C.

Last week, the Wireless Innovation Alliance (WIA) held a press conference to say it would work with the FCC and policymakers to develop regulations that usher in a host of new uses of spectrum devoted to television broadcasters.

The communications industry is at a “critical juncture” where there exists the change to “dramatically improve our access to information and quality of life,” according to Michael Calabrese, vice president of the New America Foundation and director of its Wireless Future Program. He predicted that white space devices “will transform every aspect of civil society” and that they are “the building blocks of a 21st century communications infrastructure.”

Broadcasters have objected to the use of unlicensed devices that transmit in the spectrum devoted to television broadcast. Specifically, they contend that if such devices were allowed to transmit as consumers using them roamed freely the likelihood of co-channel and adjacent channel interference in DTV receivers would be great and ultimately threaten the existence of television service.

Proponents have contended that technology holds the answer to preventing interference. Equipped with the right sensing technology to detect the presence of a TV transmission or a wireless mic, which uses the same spectrum, unlicensed white space devices could identify unused TV spectrum in a given locale for operation.

In July, the FCC lab tested prototype white space devices, which it found generally failed to detect the presence of DTV transmissions. At that time, the lab suspended the tests saying there was no further need to test the prototypes because of their inability to perform as promised.

In responding to the WIA event, NAB executive vice president Dennis Wharton issued a statement saying that Microsoft and Google, two proponents of the devices, are attempting “to muscle their way through Washington in support of a technology that simply does not work.”

As the war of words intensified, Microsoft and Philips Electronics North America each submitted separate devices to the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology for its next round of white space prototype testing. Both companies sent representatives to the commission to meet with OET employees to discuss the operation of their devices. Philip Electronics submitted its prototype Dec. 7, followed four days later by Microsoft.

On Dec. 6, Motorola entered the latest round of the debate submitting a white paper to the commission regarding the shielding effectiveness of in-home cable TV wiring and splitters and a manual for the Motorola Cognitive Radio White Space Device it delivered to the commission Nov. 15.

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