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FCC Reports Unlicensed ‘White Space’ Devices Not Ready

On July 31, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Office of Engineering and Technology released the results of a test evaluating the performance of proposed unlicensed devices that would operate in the “white spaces” of the TV broadcast spectrum.

FCC experts tested two prototypes of proposed personal/portable consumer devices that were designed to detect and avoid both active DTV channels and wireless microphone signals. According to the test report, the devices failed to consistently sense or detect the presence of either DTV broadcasts or wireless microphones. Testing also showed that the prototype devices interfered with digital cable TV channel reception on three DTV receivers in a typical home environment.

The tests were conducted as the FCC prepares to issue regulations in October that will govern whether unlicensed consumer devices are permitted to operate in the “white spaces” between active TV channels. This spectrum has been used by wireless microphones and other wireless audio devices for more than 20 years.

“The idea that big manufacturers can dump millions of new gadgets onto the same frequencies as wireless microphones without causing devastating interference to sports, entertainment, religious, news gathering and other live productions is simply not supported by engineering reality,” said Mark Brunner, senior director of public and industry relations at Shure. “The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology deserves tremendous credit for resisting pressure to forego a hard look at claims that the new devices won’t interfere and for resolving the issue on sound and objective engineering analysis.”