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FCC chairman backs use of 'white space' spectrum

The chairman of the FCC said Wednesday that he supports the use of unused "white space" spectrum for wireless broadband services.

Companies lobbying the Federal Communications Commission to access unused spectrum known as "white spaces" won a big victory on Wednesday when Chairman Kevin Martin threw his weight behind the proposal citing findings in an FCC report that was also issued Wednesday.


Martin held a press conference with reporters early in the day in which he pledged his support for the use of the white space spectrum and announced that the issue would be up for vote at the FCC's next open meeting on November 4. Martin has long been in favor of opening up additional spectrum that can be used to offer wireless broadband services.

The FCC finished testing several proof of concept devices in real world tests this summer to see if companies can develop products that use buffer spectrum between licensed broadcast channels. This spectrum known has "white space" sits between broadcast TV channels in the 150 MHz to 700 MHs spectrum bands.

The commission's Office of Engineering Technology (OET) newly released report states that devices with geo-location and sensing technologies could be used with some conditions. But the report said devices with sensing-only technology would have to undergo another round of testing within the FCC labs.

Several technology companies, including Motorola, Microsoft, and Google have been lobbying the FCC for more than a year to open up these channels, which would provide between 300 MHz to 400 MHz of unlicensed spectral capacity throughout the country that could be used by anyone.

These technology companies believe this spectrum, which is ideal for sending data wirelessly over long distances and penetrating through walls, can be used to enhance or create new wireless broadband services. And they say they can develop products and services that use this spectrum without interfering with services running on licensed spectrum in adjacent bands.

But incumbent spectrum license holders such as TV broadcasters and cell phone operators, including Verizon Wireless, say wireless devices that access this unlicensed spectrum will cause interference in the neighboring spectrum bands.

The National Association of Broadcasters and groups that use wireless microphones to broadcast during live performances or sporting events, have also opposed the use of white spaces claiming that devices using this spectrum will interfere with their services.

Chairman Martin also addressed the wireless microphone issue during the press conference. He said the FCC will reserve several channels for wireless microphones to operate.

The OET will now submit its report to the rest of the FCC commissioners for review before the November 4 vote.