February 22, 2008, 9:37 AM — A wireless broadband device tested by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission
for interference with television and wireless microphone signals has not failed,
as a broadcasting group claimed last week, members of the White Spaces Coalition
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) on Feb. 11 said a so-called
prototype device submitted by Microsoft lost power during tests being run by
the FCC. The power failure comes after another whites spaces device malfunctioned
in tests run by the FCC last year.
But Ed Thomas, a tech advisor to the White Spaces Coalition and a former chief
of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology, said Thursday that while
the devices power supply failed after many hours of continuous testing, it did
not interfere with television signals due to the power failure.
Thomas, during a press briefing, said the NAB was engaged in "rhetoric"
designed to complicate the FCC's device testing."Let this be based on science,
not politics," Thomas said of the ongoing testing at the FCC. "Let
the facts prevail."
The White Spaces Coalition, including Microsoft, Philips, Dell and Google,
is asking the FCC to allow wireless devices to operate in the so-called white
spaces of the television spectrum, space allocated for television signals but
vacant. The coalition wants the white spaces opened up to give consumers more
wireless broadband options, and the white spaces devices would be targeted at
longer-range broadband than traditional Wi-Fi.
If the FCC approves the devices this year, commercial white spaces wireless
devices could be available as soon as late 2009.
The FCC's in-house testing of four devices will continue for a couple more
weeks, then the agency will conduct field tests for up to eight weeks. A second
white spaces device has experienced no power failure problems, Thomas said.
But television broadcasters have opposed the coalition, saying it's likely
that the that wireless devices will interfere with TV signals. The NAB has suggested
the FCC should focus instead on a successful transition of TV stations to digital
broadcasts, required by February 2009.
White spaces devices are "not ready for prime time," said Dennis
Wharton, the NAB's executive vice president.
Wharton responded to Thomas' assertion that the Microsoft device did not interfere
with TV signals.
"The devices they've tested haven't performed the way they were expected
to perform," Wharton added. "That, in our view, constitutes a failure."