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NAB Asks FCC to Deny White Spaces Waiver Request

In reply comments filed with the FCC last week, the National Association of Broadcasters asked the commission to deny a waiver to a request from Adaptrum to allow operation of fixed white spaces devices with antenna heights above ground exceeding those allowed under FCC rules. The San Jose, Calif-based startup, which specializes in development of white space technology, had filed the request for waiver earlier this year, to allow the company to mount fixed TV White Spaces (“TVWS”) devices on towers in Northeast Maine near the Canadian border “to demonstrate the use of TV band devices in a rural area where there are few alternatives for broadband.”

“While NAB recognizes that the Commission’s waiver process is an important means for experimentation, the circumstances of this particular waiver should give the Commission serious pause,” the association said. “Beyond the fact that the Commission is in the midst of a rulemaking covering the exact subject of the waiver request, Adaptrum appears to have flaunted the Commission’s related rules to date, and thus its request should not be granted.”

NAB has supported innovative unlicensed technologies provided they can operate without causing interference to licensed services and provided a forum for Adaptrum to showcase its products at the annual NAB show in Las Vegas. However, NAB warned the commission to be wary of the company.

“Adaptrum has taken a number of steps that should give the Commission pause before rewarding the company with additional flexibility and trust,” the association wrote in its reply comments. “It is well understood that parties are expected to request and obtain rule waivers authorizing their deployments before actually deploying. Yet, in this case, Adaptrum appears to have already installed equipment pursuant to a waiver the Commission has yet to grant. Pictures available on Adaptrum’s website confirm that Adaptrum has installed a TVWS device on at least one large tower, that the device has been operational at least long enough to perform testing, and that customer premises equipment was installed miles away from the tower – presumably for further testing. In short, Adaptrum appears to have granted its own waiver prior to seeking and receiving Commission approval and has commenced limited operations.”

NAB was unable to find any registration for Adaptrum devices in Maine in the TVWS database nor any active experimental licenses for Adaptrum or Axiom using Adaptrum devices in Maine. NAB stated, “This is troubling, to say the least. The database approach to preventing interference depends entirely on unlicensed users properly registering devices. When devices are not registered, as appears to be the case here, there is no ready way to determine the source of harmful interference or ask the responsible party to turn down operations.”

NAB argues that should the FCC decide to grant Adaptrum's waiver request, the waiver, at a minimum, should require two vacant TV channels above and below any channel Adaptrum is using for its fixed TVWS system. NAB concludes, “In sum, Adaptrum’s actions and the Commission’s current rulemaking directly on point make Adaptrum’s request far less compelling than the average waiver request. Even if the Commission overlooks Adaptrum’s relevant actions, the Commission should take the necessary steps to ensure that Adaptrum does not harm broadcasters in the market in any way.”