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White spaces test wins FCC approval

After releasing a report that cleared white space testing from interference problems with TV broadcasting and wireless microphones, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin proposed that the government open the white spaces in digital television spectrum to deliver wireless broadband services. Sports production companies are particularly sensitive to the issue, because wireless microphones and camera systems used on game day could be negatively affected.

Broadcasters have filed an “emergency request” that the FCC seeks public comment before taking any action.

Devices with both remote-sensing and geolocation capabilities, including laptops and intelligent radios, will be allowed to use the service, said Martin, as long as they employ a database of broadcast TV channels in the area so as not to interfere with them.

Power levels for devices adjacent to TV channels will be limited to 40mW; other channels can operate at 100mW, he said.

Martin’s action was a huge setback for TV broadcasters and users of wireless microphones, including sports organizations, which had heavily lobbied the FCC and Congress to prevent the use of white space technology as a buffer against interference. Google and Microsoft, who lobbied heavily in favor of the proposal, hope to use the spectrum to deliver more affordable high-speed Internet connections to users.

The Association for Maximum Service Television, the NAB, the Open Mobile Video Coalition and the major broadcast networks all argued that the FCC is wrong and that white spaces device use will interfere with reception.

However, the official FCC report concluded otherwise — both for TV and wireless microphone interference. “At this juncture, we believe that the burden of ‘proof of concept’ has been met,” the FCC report said. “We are satisfied that spectrum sensing in combination with geolocation and database access techniques can be used to authorize equipment today under appropriate technical standards and that issues regarding future development and approval of any additional devices, including devices relying on sensing alone, can be addressed.”