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NAB Says Unlicensed Devices Are Striking Out

The National Association of Broadcasters said Friday that the news that the Federal Communications Commission would no longer test a Microsoft device being used to determine the feasibility of sharing digital-TV spectrum with unlicensed wireless devices was the third strike against the devices, while defenders of the devices said it was all part of the testing process.

"In baseball, it's three strikes and you're out," NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said Friday of the news that the Microsoft device had "unexpectedly shut down," as the NAB said Microsoft had characterized it. "How many strikes does Microsoft get? If they can't get the device to work in the lab, how are they going to get it to work in the real world?"

The NAB pointed out that the FCC's decision not to test the device followed a power failure for an earlier Microsoft device, which Microsoft itself withdrew from testing, and the FCC's initial testing that found the devices caused interference and did not sufficiently sense the presence of TV signals and wireless microphones.

The Wireless Innovation Alliance, which represents computer companies backing the devices, said the "three strikes" metaphor was a red herring. "This is not a pass/fail proposition," alliance spokesman Brian Peters said. "The goal of this testing is not to certify any final consumer 'device' or even identify one approach as better than another."

He maintained that Microsoft's device "produced valuable information for engineers at the FCC," although he added that it was "unfortunate that the device will no longer be tested."

However, there are a number of test devices [including Motorola] still providing the FCC with the information it needs to produce effective guidelines for the development of white-space technology, and testing should continue as planned, he said.

Google proposed what it said is a compromise plan for sharing the band, but the NAB and wireless-microphone makers, which also use the spectrum at issue, rejected it.