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Northpoint, MDS America Swap Harsh Words

Washington— Northpoint Technology Ltd. has strongly accused a potential rival of filing false claims with the Federal Communications Commission regarding its spectrum-sharing technology.

Northpoint and MDS America are vying to share direct-broadcast satellite spectrum to provide multichannel video and broadband access over terrestrial distribution systems. The DBS industry sees both firms as dangerous interlopers.

Although Northpoint is a start-up with no licenses or subscribers, MDS America — the U.S. affiliate of France-based MDS International — claims to be operating about 20 systems around the globe in the DBS band without causing harmful interference.

MDS America recently obtained an experimental license from the FCC to test its technology in a Florida sugar-cane field.

In a May 9 FCC filing, Northpoint accused MDS America of misrepresenting the scope of its spectrum-sharing operations in an attempt to "deceive the [FCC] and the American business community."

Northpoint said it examined about 20 locations where MDS International is operating — including New Zealand, Korea, and Ireland — and concluded that none of them represented a true example of spectrum sharing that employed mitigation techniques.

Northpoint urged the FCC to use its findings to launch an investigation.

"If the sites listed by MDS are, in fact, representative, it appears that MDS is not actually serving any subscribers on frequencies that are shared with DBS, much less in the 20 countries claimed," Northpoint said."

A week later, MDS America fired back, calling Northpoint's charges "demonstrably false" and "baseless." The company promised a formal response with a point-by-point rebuttal for FCC review.

MDS America said it could set up here for anyone interested a live computer connection with its test site in Lyon, France, to demonstrate that its spectrum-sharing technology works in the DBS band.

MDS America suggested that Northpoint's charges were designed to block anyone else from obtaining access to terrestrial DBS spectrum. MDS America would participate in an auction for the frequencies, but Northpoint is resisting having to pay for the airwaves.

"Who is more likely to issue misleading statements to the public, Congress and regulatory agencies? Those, like Northpoint, that seek to acquire a monopoly over valuable spectrum from the taxpayers free of charge? Or those, like MDS America, that seek no special favor and ask for the spectrum to be granted to the highest bidder," MDS America said in a May 15 statement.

The FCC is evaluating tests of Northpoint's technology. The DBS industry wants the agency to keep both Northpoint and MDS America out of the band, arguing interference would knock out DBS reception for millions of subscribers.

In a May 11 appearance on C-SPAN, FCC chairman Michael Powell fielded a call from a Virginia Beach, Va., DBS subscriber concerned about DBS-signal interference from terrestrial competitors.

"I can just promise you that to the best we are able, we will not license services that substantially detract from your viewing experience," Powell replied.