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Red Alert!

Jeff Baumgartner

10:55 AM -- A big group of broadcast TV interests filed on Friday an "Emergency Request" (PDF) seeking additional comment about interference caused by prototype "White Spaces" devices that tap into unused portions of broadcast TV spectrum to deliver mobile broadband services.

The request -- coming way of the Association for Maximum Service Television Inc. (MSTV) , the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) , ABC Inc. , NBC Universal , CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS), Fox Broadcasting Co. , and Open Mobile Video Coalition -- was filed soon after word spread that Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin was in favor of a "White Spaces" proposal that's set for a vote on Nov. 4, 2008. (See Wild About 'White Space'.) They argue that the process is moving forward without adequate review and comment.

The most recent round of tests by the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) indicated that the "proof of concept" burden for White Spaces devices had been met, but the 400-page report also acknowledged that interference issues did indeed pop up under certain circumstances.

The broadcasters are asserting that the test data show that spectrum sensing cannot be used to determine accurately whether a television channel is occupied or vacant:

"If the Commission adopts rules hastily based on a flawed reading of the OET test results, WSDs (White Spaces Devices) will be let into the broadcast band without the protections that are necessary to prevent widespread interference to television and cable reception."

The broadcasters are asking that the vote be suspended so that parties can submit initial comments within 45 days of the release of the Phase II report (released Oct. 15), with reply comments due 25 days thereafter.

So far, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) has reserved further comment until after it reviews the latest test data, but the industry has previously addressed a spate of interference-related concerns based on its analysis of the first OET trial. (See Cable Worried About 'White Space' Tech.)

UPDATE:: The FCC said it's reviewing the request. At last check, there's no change to the White Spaces item originally placed on the Nov. 4 agenda.

"It is, however, important to note that this proceeding has been open for several years and recently included multiple rounds of testing in the lab and field, which were open to the public and provided all interested parties with ample opportunities to comment and provide input," FCC spokesman Rob Kenny said in an emailed statement.

He stressed that the latest report "proves the concept" that White Spaces can be used for advanced communications services and that spectrum sensing used with geo-location and other techniques can be used to authorize equipment now "under appropriate technical standards."

"The opportunity is there to get these innovative new devices in the hands of consumers sooner rather than later," Kenny added.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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