NFL, ESPN Offer to Kick Off White-Spaces Testing

NFL, ESPN renew offer to let FCC test unlicensed wireless devices under real-world conditions of 2008-09 football season.

The National Football League and ESPN renewed their offer to let the Federal Communications Commission test unlicensed wireless devices under the real-world conditions of the 2008-09 football season, while a pair of legislators is calling for field tests, as well.

The FCC has been testing the devices, which would use the so-called white spaces between digital-TV channels, at its Maryland lab and indicated that it will take those tests out into the field soon. ESPN and the NFL want that field to be a gridiron.

Sports leagues and producers are concerned that the devices will interfere with the microphones and other wireless equipment that they say are "not a convenience but a necessity" to their coverage of the games.

In comments filed with the commission, they offered to make the tests as convenient as possible by suggesting that they could be conducted at nearby M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens, or FedExField, home to the Washington Redskins. With the preseason only six weeks away, "these field tests could be scheduled to take place very soon," they argued.

Broadcasters and microphone users, including churches and Broadway theaters, have been fighting hard against allowing unlicensed mobile devices like laptops and spectrum-sensing radios to share the TV band without assurances that they will not interfere with those beautiful DTV pictures they are shifting to in February 2009 -- assurances broadcasters argued are next to impossible to supply given the unlicensed nature of the devices.