FCC Cranks Up White-Spaces Testing

Federal Communications Commission Testing Spectrum-Sensing Unlicensed Devices

The Federal Communications Commission is conducting testing to determine whether and how to allow spectrum-sensing unlicensed devices to operate in the digital-TV-spectrum band being used by broadcasters.

If a device cannot tell when a broadcaster is already using the channel, it could mistakenly start transmitting on the channel and create interference to those beautiful new DTV signals broadcasters' future depends on.

"The device is likely to turn on to channels consumers are trying to watch," Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV) president David Donovan said in an announcement about the testing, which is open to the public. "This device fails to protect consumers and has a long way to go before it can be released into the real world."

Donovan also said Motorola’s device did not detect analog signals, which low-power TV stations and translators will continue to broadcast after the Feb. 17, 2009, switch to digital by full-power stations.

A Motorola spokesman could not be reached at press time, but Steve Sharkey, senior director of regulatory and spectrum policy for the company, told B&C in advance of the new test that the testing "is not about a particular device, but about giving the FCC the information it needs to come up with rules and standards."

He said whatever those are, Motorola will meet them. "As soon as the FCC defines the protection criteria and tests for actual devices that will be tested after the rules, our devices will meet that," he told B&C.

"We all learn from our failures," Donovan said Friday in a statement, "but it is becoming painfully obvious that the FCC lacks sufficient evidence to draft a rule that can protect tens of millions of consumers from harmful interference."