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White Space: Tests Coming to NFL Saturday

The FCC will test the white-space spectrum-sensing powers of prototype devices at an NFL pre-season game Saturday, Aug. 9.

From 10 a.m. till 8 p.m., the FCC, accompanied by staff from wireless mic maker Shure Inc., will test the devices at FedEx Field, just outside Washington, D.C., at the game between the Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills.

The tests are designed to see how effectively the devices can sense, and thus avoid, channels occupied by wireless mic users. NFL games, which have their own RF coordinators, provide a complex RF environment, including two-way radios used by coaching staff and intercom systems used by broadcast crews.

“It’s really the perfect environment for what the FCC is trying to accomplish,” said Shure Director of Advanced Development Edgar Reihl. “This is definitely the place where real world conditions exist to the extreme. When testing is complete, we should have a much clearer view of whether or not this proposed technology can operate without interfering with other necessary services and uses that are ongoing.”

Devices from Philips and Singapore-based Institute for Infocomm Research will be the test subjects. Motorola will not participate as the device it’s submitted to the FCC is not designed to sense wireless mics.

The testing comes just as FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said the commission may launch a rulemaking process to govern wireless mic use in Channels 51-69 of the TV band—the frequencies being surrendered at the end of full-power analog broadcasts in February 2009. Critics have charged that such use of wireless mics in non-broadcast operations is illegal.

The test devices have only the ability to receive, not transmit, so there is no possibility of interference with broadcast or football operations.

The FCC will begin by testing the devices with all wireless microphones switched off, and then move to tests with them switched on. That will reveal whether the devices are registering false positives.

The FCC has also said it will test the devices in a theatrical venue such as a Broadway theater.