Use of 'White Space' by Devices and Service Providers Moves a Step Closer

Carl Weinschenk

There is an ongoing battle on the fate of white space, which is spectrum that will be left vacant by the move of broadcast in February. The spectrum is very valuable, and can be used to support end user devices or as a way to backhaul signals upstream to the center of the network.


This week, the Federal Communications Commission released a report that backed the feasibility of using the spectrum. This Reuters story says that Philips, Motorola, Google and Microsoft are among companies planning to release devices taking advantage of the spectrum. The report noted that The National Association of Broadcasters, which opposes the use of white space in this manner, suggests that the FCC is misinterpreting the data it collected. The next step is a public meeting in early November at which the commission will consider approving the recommendations.


One of the objections to the use of white space is fear that it could interfere with public address systems and broadcast television signals. Indeed, Ars Technica reports that the New York City Council is debating a resolution urging the FCC not to allow the use of the white space or, if they do, that they ensure that public address systems -- the type that are used on Broadway -- are protected.


TVNewsday details the NAB's position. The group suggests that the full report, which came from the Office of Engineering and Technology (OET), contradicts the executive summary, which it says is more positive. The story provides four examples of problems cited in the report. They are a malfunctioning prototype device malfunction from Microsoft; adjacent channel interference; an inability of devices to adequately sense the presence of wildly fluctuating signals and poor monitoring of wireless microphones.


This BetaNews piece provides a good flavor of the kind of questions that are being asked and answered about the white space. There are three areas of attention: whether the problems are overstated, what the industry will use the spectrum for and when these applications and services will be available.


On the last question, vendors said that it is possible that if the spectrum is opened at the November 4 meeting, devices could be available after a year of testing and certification. This period would grow, however, if the FCC's guidelines are vague and/or opponents appeal the commission's decision.


While there may be something inherently dull about a debate over something called "white space," this is an important issue. Vendors and service providers should track its progress -- both on and off Broadway.

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