Take Two For Microsoft’s ‘White Space’ Device

Microsoft isn’t letting a little Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rejection keep it down.

The company submitted a device to the agency today that shows the potential of using
the interference buffer zones between television channels, called “white spaces,” for wireless broadband services.

“We remain confident that the unused channels in the television spectrum
band can successfully be used without harmful interference to incumbent
licensees, such as television and wireless microphone services,”
Microsoft said in a statement.

The new submission comes only days after an FCC report
cast serious doubts on
the ability of “smart radios” to detect and avoid television signals in
white spaces. The agency based its report on its testing of a prototype Microsoft device.

According to Microsoft, the prototype device tested by the FCC was not
working properly because an internal component was broken. Testing on a
spare prototype, Microsoft claims, shows the device can detect and avoid
television signals.

The FCC tested two devices submitted by the White Space Coalition, which
includes Microsoft, Google and several other technology companies. The
FCC concluded the first prototype was “generally unable” to sense
wireless microphones while the second device delivered mixed results.

“Prototype white space devices submitted to the commission for initial
evaluation do not consistently sense or detect TV broadcast or wireless
microphone signals,” the report concludes.

But Microsoft said Monday one of the prototypes tested by the FCC for
digital television signals contained a scanner operating at a “severely
degraded” level. Microsoft said the damaged scanner accounted for the
poor performance of the device.

An identical prototype in the FCC lab delivered much better results,
Microsoft said.

“Microsoft’s testing of the spare prototype device it had previously
submitted to the FCC revealed that in the FCC’s laboratory, the spare
device was able to detect digital television signals at the power level
that we had stated,” the company stated.

“And with some adjustments,
this device detected wireless microphone signals as we had indicated
that it would.”

Companies such as Microsoft and Google hope to eventually use
white spaces to develop both licensed and unlicensed wireless devices
and services.

Licensed use could include delivering wireless broadband,
while free, unregulated spectrum is currently used by garage-door
openers, baby monitors, microwave ovens, remote controls and,
increasingly, wireless LANs.

The white spaces could be utilized as early as February 2009 when
broadcasters move to digital signals.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which opposes the use of
white spaces for purposes other than interference buffer zones, said
Monday the initial FCC report should stand.

“The FCC performed rigorous tests, and we are confident its report is
accurate. By continuing to press its self-serving agenda, Microsoft is
demonstrating a willingness to play Russian roulette with America’s
access to interference free television reception,” NAB spokesman Dennis
Wharton said in an e-mail statement to internetnews.com.

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