Wednesday, September 22, 2010

FCC Opens "White Spaces" Spectrum

The FCC issued an order that opens up vacant airwaves between TV channels for new unlicensed applications such as "super Wi-Fi." Specifically, a Second Memorandum Opinion and Order (Second MO&O) resolves numerous legal and technical issues regarding unlicensed spectrum usage. Notably, the Order eliminates the requirement that TV bands devices that incorporate geo-location and database access must also include sensing technology to detect the signals of TV stations and low-power auxiliary service stations (wireless microphones). It also requires wireless microphone users who seek to register in the TV bands databases to certify that they will use all available channels from 7 through 51 prior to requesting registration. Requests to register in the database will be public, thus allowing interested parties to weigh in on any given request.

The FCC order also includes steps to ensure that incumbent services are protected from interference from the use of white spaces in various ways. This includes reserving two vacant UHF channels for wireless microphones and other low power auxiliary service devices in all areas of the country.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said "We know from experience that unlicensed spectrum can trigger unexpected but hugely beneficial innovation. For example, years ago, there was a band of low-quality spectrum that was lying fallow. Nobody could figure out what to do with this so-called "junk band," so the FCC decided to free it up as unlicensed spectrum.

The result was a wave of new technologies -- baby monitors, cordless phones, and eventually a real game changer: Wi-Fi. Today, Wi-Fi is a multi-billion industry and an essential part of the mobile ecosystem. As compared to the airwaves we released for unlicensed use in 1985, this "white spaces" spectrum is far more robust -- traveling longer distances and through walls, making the potential for this unlicensed spectrum much greater.

"We share the FCC's enthusiasm about the potential use of TV white spaces for Wi-Fi," said Wi-Fi Alliance CEO Edgar Figueroa. "The new FCC rules will foster innovation that benefits end users, while continuing to promote co-existence among all users of the spectrum."

The Wi-Fi Alliance recently initiated an industry effort to create a certification program for Wi-Fi devices operating in the TV white spaces. This program will draw on the emerging IEEE 802.11af standard.

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