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FCC votes for ‘white space’ liberalisation

test 11 November 2008

US: The decision goes against the wishes of vocal opponents in the US pro-audio community, writes David Davies. In a press statement issued on November 4th, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it had adopted a Second Report and Order that establishes rules to allow “new, sophisticated” wireless devices to operate in broadcast TV spectrum on a secondary basis in locations where that spectrum is open (‘white spaces’).

Despite strenuous opposition from high-profile US politicians (including Hillary Rodham Clinton), manufacturers and associations, the FCC voted to adopt rules that will enable the utilisation of unlicensed devices – both fixed and portable/personal – in the unused spectrum in order to provide broadband data and other services. According to the organisation, devices must include a ‘geolocation capability’ and provision to access – via the internet – a database of the incumbent services, as well as spectrum-sensing technology.

However, the Commission – whose Laboratory will subject all white space devices to equipment certification – says that it will permit certification of devices that rely solely on spectrum-sensing should they pass a “much more rigorous” approvals process.

According to the FCC, the new rules represent “a careful first step to permit the operation of unlicensed devices in the TV white spaces and include numerous safeguards to protect incumbent services against interference.” The Commission insists that it will act promptly to remove from the market any equipment found to be causing harmful interference.

Regarding wireless microphones, the FCC says that the locations where such equipment is used can be registered in the database and “protected in the same way as other services”. The Commission also stipulates that devices to use white spaces must include the ability to sense wireless microphones.

Kevin J. Martin (pictured), chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, tells PSN-e: “Prior to going to market, any white space device will undergo a rigorous certification process. This item protects broadcasters’ operations. It also protects entertainment, sports and other significant venues, including the unlicensed operation of many wireless microphones and other wireless devices in those areas. Additionally, channels have even been set aside to protect wireless microphones in major markets.”

To read more about the latest developments with regard to spectrum access in the UK/European markets, see PSNE’s November print issue cover story (archived here) or the recent PSN-e coverage.

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