FCC: Spectrum Bridge Can Launch White Spaces Database Jan. 26

The FCC Wednesday announced that Spectrum Bridge has been given the go-ahead as the first TV white spaces database system manager starting Jan. 26, 2012. That database is an effort to insure that the unlicensed devices the FCC is allowing to share TV spectrum don't interfere with TV service, or cable headends, or wireless microphones.

The FCC  also said  that the Office of Engineering and Technology has approved a device by Koos Technical Services as the first product that will be allowed to operate on unlicensed devices in those so-called white spaces between TV channels.

Devices using that spectrum must check in with the database, which is supposed to make sure the channel they are using is available and won't interfere with TV reception, which has been the big concern of broadcasters.

"With today's approval of the first TV white spaces database and device, we are taking an important step towards enabling a new wave of wireless innovation," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in announcing the approvals. "Unleashing white spaces spectrum has the potential to exceed even the many billions of dollars in economic benefit from Wi-Fi, the last significant release of unlicensed spectrum, and drive private investment and job creation."

The FCC will launch SpectrumBridge with a limited rollout in Wilmington, NC, home of the first DTV test market. It will allow wider use after it is ready to handle requests for protection by wireless microphone users at event venues--like stadiums and theaters.

The FCC last February gave conditional approval to nine different companies (http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/463287-FCC_Lets_Everybody_Manag...) (10 when it later added Microsoft) to operate the databases of channels that fixed and portable unlicensed devices can use in the spectrum bands currently used by TV broadcasters. The FCC decided to let "marketplace" forces shape the development of the database service, which will ultimately be overseen by the OET.

The commission said in September that Spectrum Bridge would be first out of the box because it was ready (http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/473848-FCC_Spectrum_Bridge_Data...)

Broadcasters have long been concerned that such devices could interfere with the crystal-clear new DTV and HDTV signals they have staked their future on. Cable operators also have skin in the game since they don't want interference to the signals they get from broadcasters, either.

The FCC is trying to promote wireless broadband and more efficient use of the spectrum, both driving forces behind its decision to open up the so-called "white spaces" in the TV band to unlicensed devices like laptops and smart radios.

Commission rules require an unlicensed TV band device to contact an authorized database for a list of available channels and must confine itself to that frequency. Also registered in the database are cable headend and broadcast auxiliary receive sites and wireless microphones, with the FCC looking to insure interference protections for those as well as TV station primary transmissions.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.