FCC Votes to Accommodate Unlicensed in Tighter TV Spectrum

The FCC has taken steps to accommodate unlicensed devices in the unused portion of the TV band--so-called white spaces--after the FCC decreases those spaces in post-incentive auction repacking.

"Following the incentive auction, with the repacking of the television band and the repurposing of current television spectrum for wireless services, there will be fewer frequencies in the UHF band available for use by unlicensed fixed and personal/portable white space devices and wireless microphones," the FCC said. "The proposed changes to [the] rules are designed to allow for more robust service and efficient spectral use in the frequency bands that are now and will continue to be allocated and assigned to broadcast television services, while continuing to protect authorized users from harmful interference."

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking approved at the FCC's public Meeting Tuesday (Sept. 30), also delivers on a promise in the incentive auction order that the FCC would consider changes in its rules to make it easier to use the TV bands and guard bands between TV and wireless users for unlicensed devices, including wireless microphones.

The notice seeks comment on how to permit that while protecting licensed services from interference, but the proposal has some troubling elements for FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who concurred in part.

"In particular, I am concerned that permitting white space devices to operate in the guard bands, at the power levels and bandwidths proposed here, might impair the adjacent licensed spectrum" and interfere with wireless handset reception, "creating impaired spectrum licenses, depressing auction revenues, and deterring auction participation."

John Eggerton

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.