FCC to launch field tests of new crop of "white space devices"

Next week, the FCC will launch a second test, this time in the field, of prototype wireless devices that run in the “white spaces” of the unlicensed television broadcast band. And through an FCC filing, the NFL and ESPN invited the commission to test these white space devices (WSDs) in football fields: during 2008-09 games at the Baltimore Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium and the Washington Redskins’ FedExField in Landover, Maryland. Several such devices did poorly in the first round of tests a year ago in the FCC labs. The prototypes were created by Microsoft and by a group of other high tech companies, including Dell, Google, HP and Intel. The FCC testers concluded (the full report is online) that the first crop of WSDs didn’t do a good job of detecting TV or wireless micrphone signals, and some of their transmitters did cause interference. As recently as last March, a Microsoft WSD simply stopped working and was removed from lab tests. Proponents of white space use, like the Wireless Innovation Alliance, device builders and mobile software companies, say these bands between TV channels, which are no longer needed in digital broadcasting, are a substantial asset that could be exploited by a new generation of wireless devices. The broadcasters recently reiterated an inflexible opposition to the idea. Opponents, which include the broadcaster themselves as well as unlicensed wireless microphone makers and users (ranging from churches, concert venues and the NFL), argue that a flood of new devices could interfere with the signals they rely on, especially in the switchover to digital TV signals in early 2009. The new round of testing next week will assess the latest group of low-power WSD prototypes, which are expected to have more advanced features, such as dynamic power control and the ability to adjust radio power levels based on signal levels in adjacent band. Such features, in theory, will let WSDs detect when a channel is being used by authorized services, and avoid transmitting in it. The field tests will be in suburban Maryland, and Washington, D.C., covering rural, residential, and urban landscapes, an airport, sports facility, and a theater or other entertainment venue, according to a Dow Jones story. A recent series of tests by researchers at Kansas University, concluded that the “operation of unlicensed devices in the television band could be accomplished with no significant impact upon DTV receivers in the area.” One of the researchers, Joseph Evans, the Deane E. Ackers Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at KU, said that WSDs “could bring about better, more interoperable public safety communication, a drop in broadband costs and easier deployment of wireless technology to rural areas,” according to the university’s press release.


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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