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FCC: Spectrum Bridge Database to Get First Public White Spaces Test

The FCC said Wednesday that Spectrum Bridge's white spaces TV band database will be the first out of the box to get public testing, a 45-day starting starting Sept.19.

The FCC last February gave conditional approval to nine different companies (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.

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 broadasters, either.

Why spectrum bridge? "They are the first one ready," said an FCC Office of Engineering & Technology (OET) spokesman.

"The limited public testing of Spectrum Bridge's database system is intended to allow the public to access and test the system to ensure that it correctly identifies channels that are available for unlicensed TV band devices, properly registers those facilities entitled to protection, and provides protection to authorized services and registered facilities as specified in the rules," said OET Chief Julie Knapp, in a blog posting. 

According to OET, it has "examined Spectrum Bridge's channel availability calculator and finds that it is ready for trial testing by the public." Tire-kickers can get the low down here. The notice did not give the status of the other nine, or when they might get their shot.

The test is scheduled to end Nov. 2, but the FCC reserves the right to extend it. It also encourages the public, which will certainly include concerned broadcasters, to tell Spectrum Bridge about any inaccuracies or other problems, which the company is expected to address and respond to through the web site.

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.

The FCC said that it would require that 45-day test period before allowing the database to go live, which means if it passes the test, Spectrum Bridge will be the first out of the box in the marketplace as well. But it will not be in 45 days. The FCC will put out the results of the test for public comment, perhaps in another 45 days or so -- 30 days for comment, 15 for reply -- depending on what the tests find. There are also other benchmarks for approval, including testing with actual devices. The 45-day test is people, rather than devices, querying the database to make sure the channels it says are free actually are. There are currently no devices approved. The databases also have to coordinate with each other, but since Spectrum Bridge is the first, that would not hold up approval, it would simply require it to coordinate, and vice versa, with the next database approved.

Others with conditional approval are Google, Comsearch, Frequency Finder Inc., KB Enterprises LLC and LS Telcom, Key Bridge Global LLC, Neustar Inc., Telcordia Technologies and WSdb LLC.