Skip to main content

Meld Technology, Spectrum Bridge Receive Waiver for TV Band Low-power ATSC Transmitter

The FCC has granted a waiver request from Meld Technology and Spectrum Bridge, allowing the use of Meld Technology's' low power (22 mW) ATSC transmitter under White Space rules for low-power personal/portable devices. TV Technology Executive Editor Deborah McAdams has a good review of the FCC action and comments filed in the proceeding her article FCC Grants Adjacent-Channel Waiver for Meld White Space Device.

While the device met the power requirements for a personal/portable device, it did not meet the geo-location requirement because it is designed to be used indoors to broadcast digital TV programming to TV sets in retailers' stores. It is not able to use GPS for determining its location. The waiver request was for one year, with the assumption that a reliable geo-location solution could be found for determining the unit's indoor location.

The National Association of Broadcasters supported granting the waiver, provided certain conditions were met to ensure the device operated at a maximum of 40 mW and only on channels authorized in the TV Band database, was professionally installed on a fixed mounted rack, and was not authorized for sale to the general public.

If a reliable geo-location solution can be found for indoor units like the Meld Technology Pico Transmitter that would allow them to be certified under the personal/portable TV band rules, they could possibly be used to provide TV coverage, including mobile DTV if the device supports it, in areas like subway platforms that are shielded from over-the-air TV signals.

One problem is that to comply with TV Band white space rules the signals would be on a different channel than the TV station the viewer was watching before they stepped onto the subway platform or into the building. For broadcasters, a better option would be for the FCC to allow use of the device as an on-channel transmitter for TV broadcasts under broadcast rules in totally shielded areas. Since they would be used only in shielded environments, the transmitter would not have to be synchronized and could be fed from an outdoor receiver or perhaps an IP feed over a network connection.

Different rules would be required for such operation. It would make sense to put them under Part 74 and, at a minimum, require registration of units by a licensed TV station and certification that the devices would only be operated on the channel licensed to that station. The low price point of the Meld Technologies unit would make it attractive for this. I won't be surprised if someone files an application for an experimental license to test a Meld Technologies transmitter as a TV Band device retransmitting a real TV signal!