FCC tests "white space" prototypes, again

The second phase of the FCC's testing of devices that use spectrum between broadcast TV channels kicks off next week.

The Federal Communications Commission will begin the second phase of lab testing of prototype devices that use the "white space" between TV channels to transmit wireless communication signals.

Phase II of the testing, which is being conducted by the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology, begins on January 24.

The testing is part of a proceeding that will determine if the "white space" or unused spectrum between broadcast TV channels can be used for wireless service without interfering with TV broadcasts.

Technology companies say that using the spectrum between the TV channels could unleash a wave of innovation. But TV broadcasters and Sprint Nextel, the third-largest cell phone carrier in the U.S., oppose the use of "white spaces" for wireless services.

The first phase of testing, which ended in July, stirred some controversy. According to the FCC's report, a Microsoft prototype device failed to detect broadcast signals, but one submitted by Koninklijke Philips Electronics worked just fine. Microsoft has refuted the results because it claims the device used in the test was damaged, therefore invalidating the results.

Now with Phase II, Microsoft will get a chance to redeem itself. The company has already submitted another prototype device, according to the FCC. Three other companies, Adaptrum, Motorola and Philips, have also submitted devices. Google, which is bidding in the 700MHz spectrum auction later this month, wasn't named by the FCC as submitting a device for testing. But the company did submit its own white space testing results to the FCC in December.

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