FCC Close to Choosing Sites for White-Spaces Testing

Producer of NBC's Nashville Star offers to test unlicensed mobile devices during taping of reality show.
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The Federal Communications Commission is said to be close to picking the venues for its two uncommitted white-spaces-device field tests, and it certainly has a lot of places to choose from.

The producer of NBC's Nashville Star reality show threw his Stetson in the ring. In a letter to FCC chairman Kevin Martin, producer Don Lepore offered to test the devices in Nashville, Tenn., during the production of one of the show's live episodes in August.

"We believe test results from our venue would lend significant value and engineering insight for the commission to consider in its subsequent deliberations on the final rules," Lepore said.

The FCC already lined up 10 sites in various locales in the Maryland suburbs to test prototypes of the unlicensed mobile devices -- laptops, radios -- that computer companies want to be allowed to share the spectrum band with digital-TV stations. Broadcasters fear that they will interfere with those signals.

But two sites were set aside for tests in a "sports venue" and "entertainment venue." That is because wireless microphones already share the DTV band and mike users like sports producers and theater companies are concerned about interference with their equipment.

The National Football League offered to test the devices at a Washington Redskins or Baltimore Ravens game, while the people who produce the Grammy Awards suggested the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago as an entertainment site.

It is unclear whether the category is sports or entertainment, but Broad Comm, the tech company handling microphones at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, offered those venues for testing, as well, though not during the actual proceedings.

The FCC could make a decision as early as Friday on where to test. Odds are it will be closer to home than Chicago or Nashville, although the latter may have a fan in FCC commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate, who hails from the state. Tate was deep in the weeds of XM Satellite Radio-Sirius Satellite Radio merger issues and was not available for comment.

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