Professional leagues fear interference with wireless game microphones.
Professional sports leagues became the latest industry group with close ties
to broadcasters to oppose the unlicensed use of interference buffer spectrum
between television channels.
Google, Microsoft, Motorola and other IT companies hope to deliver broadband
and other advanced wireless services over the spectrum.
Known as "white spaces," the tech companies are urging the Federal
Communications Commission to approve the proposal and have submitted prototype
devices to the agency for testing. The idea has sparked a war of words and
intensive lobbying on Capitol Hill.
While broadcasters claim the use of white spaces will lead to interference
with their broadcasts, the sports leagues fear the use of the spectrum will
cause problems with wireless microphones, which already operate in the disputed
spectrum. More than 300 wireless microphones are routinely used at large events
such as the Super Bowl, the Daytona 500 and the NCAA Basketball Championship
In a May 1 filing with the FCC, the National Football League, Major League
Baseball, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, the National
Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, the National Collegiate
Athletic Association, the PGA Tour and ESPN all opposed the use of white spaces.
"We are deeply troubled by the crippling disruption and harm that
portable devices will cause to live sports events," Ken Kerschbaumer,
executive director of the Sports Video Group, said in a May 1 statement.
"These devices could knock out wireless communications systems like
headsets used by coaches and officials, microphones used by referees to
announce penalties and calls, and microphones used by journalists to conduct
interviews with athletes and coaches."
The sports leagues maintain in the FCC filing that the tech plan for white
spaces would require the leagues to buy and install beacons to jam white space
device transmissions. They also claim wireless microphone users would be
reduced to channels that require sensing technology for interference protection.
"Not only is the notion of a beacon just that-a notion-but beacons are
really just another form of spectrum sensing, which hasn't been proven to be
reliable yet," said Kerschbaumer. "Any interference caused by
wireless white spaces devices would seriously impair U.S.
sports event programming, affecting hundreds of millions of sports fans-denying
them full enjoyment of these events."
In July, the FCC put a damper on the white spaces idea when it said testing
on equipment supplied by Microsoft failed to consistently sense or detect TV
broadcast or wireless microphone signals. The White Spaces Coalition, which is
now aligned with the Wireless Innovation Alliance, said the FCC inadvertently
used a defective device. The agency began a second round of testing that
resulted in a Microsoft device losing power.
"By failing two out of two tests at the FCC, Microsoft and the Wireless
Innovation Alliance have demonstrated that unlicensed devices are not ready for
prime time," the National Association of Broadcasters said in a February
White spaces proponents countered that the debate is still very much on,
pointing out that the problem was an unrelated power issue, not interference.
"To be clear, the Microsoft device successfully tested both digital DTV
signals and wireless microphones," Brian Peters, a spokesperson for the
Wireless Innovation Alliance, said in a statement.