White Space Scrimmage Continues with Fresh Tests Ahead

October may not be the month for an FCC order on operations in the so-called white spaces (a.k.a. interference zones), or unused channels in the DTV spectrum.

Friday evening before the Columbus Day weekend, the commission announced it would undertake more testing of the prototype white space devices and their ability to detect—and avoid interfering with—broadcast signals. The companies touting the prototype devices (Microsoft, Philips and Motorola) had conducted their own tests and had urged the commission to perform additional testing before making a decision.

The FCC has already conducted a first round of tests and announced the results last summer.

Parties interested in submitting devices for this testing program were requested to advise the OET to make arrangements to deliver their devices to the commission as soon as possible. The FCC said that further details of the testing program would be announced at a later date and that this information would be made available on the commission Web site, www.fcc.gov.

Meanwhile, the lobbying continues. On Wednesday, David Donovan and Bruce Franca of the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV) met with commission legal staff to counter what they described in a filing as “misstatements and mischaracterization” by Microsoft over its test results.

MSTV also talked up the Canadian solution to the white space question. Up north, Donovan and Franca said, the Canadians have already deployed fixed rural broadband service in the white spaces; Microsoft and Philips, among others, want rules that would allow mobile unlicensed white space devices, which broadcasters say will cause interference and possibly destroy over-the-air television.

The NFL too has stepped up to the plate. Glenn Adamo, the league’s vice president of media operations, and James Stoffo, longtime consultant with the RF coordination for 12 Super Bowls (plus, the league pointed out in an FCC filing, for the Latin Grammy Awards), were the league’s big bats Oct. 4, when they cautioned the commission “not to ‘put the cart before the horse’” by setting rules on new devices without meaningful, real-world testing of the potential devices and their ability to protect incumbent wireless users, like those integral to every NFL game.

Supporters of rules that would allow mobile, unlicensed devices in the DTV spectrum meanwhile, have flooded the commission with thousands of nearly identical form letters, apparently launched through the Web sites of groups allied with the White Space Coalition, the group of eight technology companies pushing for new rules to allow the future devices.

The buzz on white spaces continues on Capitol Hill as well. Nine members of the North Carolina delegation in the U.S. House—three Republicans and six Democrats—have urged the commission to exercise caution on making any new rules that could affect television. They join the Republican senators from Maine (Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe) and a pair of House Democrats from Texas among those contacting the FCC urging caution on the issue.