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White space device field test launch elicits range of response

News of last week’s kick off of prototype white space device field tests by the Federal Communication Commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology received support ranging from lukewarm to enthusiastic by the organizations representing opposing camps in the debate over allowing unlicensed devices to operate in the band reserved for television transmission.

The Wireless Innovation Alliance applauded the commencement of testing. In a statement released July 10, alliance spokesman Jake Ward said the FCC’s announced testing “affirms what we have known all along, white space technology works, and as a result, the FCC continues to move the process forward.”

Not surprisingly, the National Association of Broadcasters and Association for Maximum Service Television see things a little differently. "NAB has no quarrel with field tests, but based upon multiple failures of unlicensed devices in laboratory testing thus far, we remain highly skeptical that this technology will ever work as advertised," said NAB executive VP Dennis Wharton.

MSTV welcomed the tests as “a first step in the right direction,” in the words of association president David Donovan. The need to put the prototypes through extensive field testing is necessary “given their failure in the lab,” he said. “The risk of interference to consumers’ reception of free, over-the-air digital television is enormous.”

The OET field tests are intended to produce results to help guide the commission as it considers whether or not to authorize use of unlicensed consumer devices in the spectrum used for DTV transmission as well as by wireless mics. The issue has pitted the broadcast industry, seeking to protect DTV transmission from the potential of harmful interference, against many high-tech heavyweights looking to roll out a host of devices and services in the band.