James Middleton

November 5, 2008

2 Min Read
Dolly loses white spaces battle

Country and western singer Dolly Parton has lost her battle to keep internet service providers out of the spectrum used to buffer commercial TV and radio transmissions – the so called ‘white spaces’.

On Tuesday, US communications regulator the FCC published rules allowing “sophisticated wireless devices” to operate in broadcast TV spectrum on an unlicensed basis, where that spectrum is not actually used for commercial purposes.

The rules allow for both fixed and portable unlicensed devices, but require that such devices include geolocation capabilities and provisions to access an internet database of the incumbent services, allowing for the white space device to be told what spectrum may be used at that location.

The white spaces proposal, championed by a gaggle of tech giants including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, has met with strong opposition from the entertainment industry. Just last week, Parton lobbied the FCC to decide against the opening up of white space spectrum as it is used by owners of wireless microphones, among other things.

Parton has been joined in her crusade by a number of entertainment stars, including Neil Diamond and Guns n’ Roses. But it seems even these musical legends could not sway the FCC’s decision.

The regulator does reassure the entertainment industry that the rules to permit the operation of unlicensed devices in the white spaces include numerous safeguards to protect incumbent services against harmful interference.

“Wireless microphones will be protected in a variety of ways. The locations where wireless microphones are used, such as sporting venues and event and production facilities, can be registered in the data base and will be protected in the same way as other services,” the regulator said. The Commission also has required that devices include the ability to listen to the airwaves to sense wireless microphones as an additional measure of protection.

However, the FCC did say that it will also permit certification of devices that do not include the geolocation and data base access capabilities, but instead rely solely on spectrum sensing, although such gadgets will be subject to a much more rigorous approval process.

The Commission revealed that it is also investigating whether higher powered unlicensed operations might be permitted in white spaces in rural areas – this is one of the proposals service providers are lobbying hard for, as it could pave the way for improved wireless broadband internet services in rural markets.

About the Author(s)

James Middleton

James Middleton is managing editor of telecoms.com | Follow him @telecomsjames

You May Also Like