FCC votes to let low-power devices use empty TV channels after digital switchover
From "FCC lets wireless sneak between TV airwaves," Reuters (via News.com], 12 October:
"The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to permit certain wireless devices to use vacant airwaves between active television channels as long as they do not cause interference.
"Companies such as computer chipmaker Intel have pushed the FCC to make those airwaves available for use without a license for services like high-speed wireless Internet. But broadcasters have worried about possible signal disruptions.
" 'Allowing low-power wireless devices to operate in the unused portions of the television bands could be an efficient and effective use of this unused spectrum,' FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said at the agency's monthly open meeting.
"The FCC agreed to permit the use of fixed, low-powered, wireless equipment on some unused channel frequencies and said it would conduct testing to assess interference and encouraged others to submit their findings.
"The FCC said it expected to have the laboratory test results on interference by July and would set final technical requirements for the devices by October 2007.
"The National Association of Broadcasters said it looked forward to working with the agency.
"Marketing of the devices would only be allowed when television broadcasters switch to airing their digital signals and return their old analog airwaves to the government in February 2009, the FCC said.
" 'I think it strikes the right balance by promoting the development of new technologies while ensuring that over-the-air television is not subject to harmful interference,' said FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein.
"Signals from the airwaves at issue -- frequencies below 900 megahertz -- can easily penetrate walls, trees and other obstructions, unlike the higher frequencies.
"Intel attorney Marjorie Dickman said the company welcomed the FCC's decision because it wanted additional airwaves available for other uses than television service. Intel 'commends Chairman Martin for moving forward with the proceeding and looks forward to continuing to work with the FCC to make additional airwaves available for fixed-wireless, high-speed, Internet services in rural areas and for personal, home and office networking purposes,' she said...
"Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved."
Official FCC news release, 12 October 2006: "FCC Takes Steps to Allow New Low Power Devices on Vacant TV Channels"
"Separate Statement of Commissioner Michael J. Copps": "...Then there is the question of whether the white spaces should be used on a licensed or unlicensed basis. The Commission's assumption has always been unlicensed - indeed, the caption of our 2004 NPRM (and today's item) is Unlicensed Operation in the TV Broadcast Bands. I have long supported freeing up additional unlicensed spectrum. In many contexts - as with the enormously successful bands that support today's Wi-Fi networks - unlicensed uses most closely approach the ideal of the people's airwaves, to be used in direct service of the public interest. With our recent AWS auction and the upcoming 700 Mhz auction, we are opening up a huge swath of prime spectrum to licensed use - and it seems to me, on the present record, that the appropriate balance is to open up the TV white spaces to unlicensed use..."
"Statement of Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein": "...Wherever I travel, I hear the calls for more unlicensed spectrum from operators who need more capacity to drive broadband deployment deeper and farther into all corners of the country. In this item, we are rightly exploring the latest and most exciting cognitive radio and spectrum sensing technologies that are available to see how they can enable spectrum facilitation in the television bands. Of course, broadcasters have used the public spectrum for many years to serve rural and urban areas alike in providing news, civic information, education and entertainment. I fully support our request for comment on how best to ensure that harmful interference is not caused by the operation of unlicensed devices. The American people care a lot about the quality of their television reception. We will hear an earful from consumers if this is not done right. I am particularly pleased with our decision today to allow channels 14-20 and 2-4 to remain 'on the table' for further testing to determine their suitability for possible unlicensed services in the future... Finally, while the item does provide a balanced view of the benefits and challenges of unlicensed versus licensed operations in the white spaces bands, I want to specifically express my preference for use of this spectrum on an unlicensed basis. Unlicensed services, with their low barriers to entry, present such a great opportunity for the deployment of broadband offerings in communities across the country no matter their size or financial status. Considering the favorable propagation characteristics for wireless broadband services in the 700 MHz band and the important obligation to protect existing television operations from harmful interference, I believe that unlicensed operations present the best use of the spectrum for this country."
"Statement of Commissioner Robert M. McDowell": "I am excited about this item because it starts a chain of events that will lead to an explosion of entrepreneurial brilliance. I am also delighted that it provides tremendous opportunities for further unlicensed use of these slices of the spectrum..."