Wild About 'White Space'

Despite some interference issues, FCC Chair favors a proposal that would allow special devices to tap into unused broadcast spectrum

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

October 16, 2008

2 Min Read
Wild About 'White Space'

11:35 AM -- In a move sure to strike concern among broadcasters and cable operators, it now appears clear that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will go ahead and vote on a "White Spaces" proposal on Nov. 4 following a second phase of tests on prototype devices indicating that the "burden of 'proof of concept' has been met."

Those prototypes are designed to tap into "white space," or unused portions of unlicensed broadcast television bands, to deliver high-speed services. The latest round tested devices from Adaptrum, the Institute For Infocomm Research, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), and Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, FCC Chairman (and cable industry fave) Kevin Martin said he is in favor of a proposal that would allow the use of unlicensed white space devices (WSDs), holding that it would allow for the units to operate at only 40 mW on adjacent channels, and 100 mW elsewhere.

It’s not clear yet whether Martin has the votes to get the proposal approved. Martin tried to get a proposal through that would award "must carry" designations to low-power broadcasters, but the item was hastily removed from the agency's agenda earlier this week. (See No Power for Martin's Bid.)

Broadcasters and the cable industry have been following the white space issue closely, arguing that, based on earlier test results, the technology would cause significant interference to digital TV reception. In the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) 's analysis of the initial tests, it found that unlicensed devices operating as low as 4.3 mW can cause interference at a distance of two meters. (See Cable Worried About 'White Space' Tech.)

The NCTA issued a statement today that the organization is still reviewing the report, but added that latest data "does confirm that the Direct Pickup Interference concerns we raised in previous filings were valid and millions of consumers will encounter interference on their TVs if the devices are approved at the high power levels that have been proposed.”

The latest report did note that the FCC conducted two "anecdotal" field tests to assess interference potential from WSD transmitters. Those tests "showed that under certain circumstances, when the transmit antenna was placed in close proximity to a cable-connected TV, direct pick-up interference was observed."

However, the tests also found that the level of interference was highly dependent on the interconnection among various system components, such as cable amplifiers, splitters, and set-tops that were in use.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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