DTV Delay Doesn't Slow White Spaces Momentum
Despite congressional legislation postponing the digital television switch from Feb. 17 to June 12, tech heavies are moving forward with plans to use the white spaces between channels to deliver unlicensed broadband. The White Spaces Database Group includes Comsearch, Dell, Google, HP, Microsoft, Motorola and NeuStar.
It was one of the biggest wins of 2008 for tech when the Federal
Communications Commission approved rules for the unlicensed use of
the "white spaces" between digital television signals. The use of the
interference buffers zones between digital channels opens the spectrum for
another broadband venue.
Google co-founder Larry Page was one of the first to rush and gush in praise of the FCC's Nov. 4 decision.
"I've always thought that there are a lot of really incredible things that engineers and entrepreneurs can do with this spectrum," Page wrote on Google's public policy blog. "As an engineer, I was also really gratified to see that the FCC decided to put science over politics. For years the broadcasting lobby and others have tried to spread fear and confusion about this technology."
Page and other tech leaders undoubtedly marked Feb. 17, 2009, on their calendars as the day television broadcasters would have to switch to digital broadcasting and make the white spaces spectrum available for unlicensed broadband use.
Those plans went down in flames as first the Senate and then the House approved legislation pushing the digital television deadline from Feb. 17 to June 12.
Nevertheless, tech is pushing forward with white spaces with seven tech heavies announcing Feb. 4 a working group for the creation and operation of a white spaces database to govern use of the vacant television broadband spectrum when it becomes available on June 12. The founding members of the White Spaces Database Group include Comsearch, Dell, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Motorola and NeuStar.
The FCC rules require white space devices to have sensing technology linked to a geolocation database, allowing the device to detect and avoid broadcast signals. The tech working group aims to establish data formats and protocols that are open and nonproprietary. The group also plans to advocate that the database administration be open and nonexclusive.
"We don't plan to become a database administrator ourselves, but do want to work with the FCC to make sure that a white spaces database gets up and running. We hope that this will unfold in a matter of months, not years," Richard Whitt, Google's Washington telecom and media counsel, wrote in a Feb. 4 Google blog post. "In the coming weeks and months, members of the group will be offering to the Commission their perspectives, and some specific recommendations, about the technical requirements we would like to see adopted for the database."
The database will tell white spaces devices what spectrum may be used at that location. As an additional layer of interference protection, the FCC has also required that the unlicensed devices be able to sense wireless microphones. All devices will need equipment certification from the FCC.
In approving the use of white spaces, the FCC ultimately dismissed the interference concerns of broadcasters and professional audio and communications equipment makers, who adamantly opposed the proposal for years. FCC field testing, though, proved otherwise.
"Normally, the Commission adopts prospective rules about interference and then certifies devices to ensure they are in compliance," then FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said. "Here, we took the extraordinary step of first conducting this extensive interference testing in order to prove the concept that white space devices could be safely deployed."