[opendtv] News: FCC Opens Taboo TV Channels
- From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
- To: OpenDTV Mail List <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 13 Oct 2006 21:54:58 -0400
Date posted: 2006-10-13
FCC Opens Taboo TV Channels
The FCC officially opened taboo TV channels at its regular monthly
meeting Oct. 12. The commission unanimously approved a First Report
and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to allow "fixed
low-power devices" to operate on unused TV channels. Mobile devices
and licensing provisions will undergo further scrutiny.
The R&O represents the first time consumer devices will be permitted
mass deployment in unused TV channels. In each television market,
which may have from six to 20 TV stations, at least one channel is
left fallow between each station's channel assignment to prevent the
signals from interfering with one another. Hence, the notion of
unused TV channels--considered taboo for TV use, but referred to as
"white space" by those who want that spectrum available for personal
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, mindful of the potential effect on TV
stations, issued this statement in response to the order and further
"In the past, I have expressed that our first priority is furthering
the digital transition and minimizing the burden on viewers... the
final DTV channel selection and assignment process is still ongoing,
which makes it more difficult to assess the amount of white space
that might ultimately be available. Now that Congress has established
a 'hard date' for the DTV transition, however, the commission should
resolve outstanding technical issues so that low-power devices
designed to operate on unused TV frequencies may be placed on the
market with the completion of the DTV transition."
After analog TV transmitters go dark on that hard date, Feb. 17,
2009, TV signals will reside on channels 2 through 36 and 38 through
51. Channel 37 is reserved for astronomy and medical telemetry, and
thus excluded in the R&O (according to the news release describing
the order, which was not yet available at press time).
The FNPRM will seek more information on several items raised since
the original Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was issued in May 2004.
Primary among those is whether or not to allow mobile low-power
devices in the TV spectrum. Broadcasters are particularly wary of
mobile devices because unlicensed, portable FM transmitters are
already wreaking havoc with licensed radio signals. Another item left
open to debate is the questioning of licensing.
At the inception of the 2004 notice, it was presumed that spectrum
for the low-power, 100 mW devices in question would be unlicensed,
and essentially, free. Since then, however, pressure for licensing
has increased--particularly after the advanced wireless spectrum
auction last month raised $14 billion. The commission said it wants
to see "comments on the relative benefits" of both approaches,
however both Democratic commissioners leaned against licensing.
"While I am more than happy to give careful consideration to comments
from those who favor licensed use of the white spaces, I would have
preferred that today's item announce a rebuttable presumption in
favor of unlicensed use," said Commissioner Michael Copps in his
In his statement, Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said, "I want to
specifically express my preference for use of this spectrum on an
unlicensed basis. Unlicensed services, with their low barriers to
entry, present such a great opportunity for the deployment of
broadband offerings in communities across the country no matter their
size or financial status."
Copps noted the crux of opening TV white space is broadband
deployment. He said the country was in "the midst of a broadband
crisis," and that it ranked 15th in the world in broadband
penetration. At the same time, he called for technical standards that
would protect broadcast signals from interference.
"As with so much of the commission's work, the devil is in the
details. I will be watching closely to make sure that we strike the
appropriate balance between innovation and caution," he said.
On the side of caution, the R&O at hand banishes mobile devices from
channels 14 through 20 because those channels are used for public
safety in at least 13 cities. However, the further notice asks
whether fixed low-power transmitters should be allowed in those
The FNPRM invites comment on whether any type of low-power devices
should be permitted on channels 2 through 4, which are commonly used
to interface TVs with VCRs. It also makes "detailed technical
proposals to facilitate the use of a dynamic frequency selection
mechanism to ensure that TV band devices operate only on vacant TV
channels." This refers to so-called "smart" technologies that sniff
out unused TV channels. Further comment is also invited on
geo-location and "control signal interference avoidance."
The commission invited the submission of outside test results, and
reaffirmed that it would continue its own interference tests.
The Oct. 12 R&O and further notice represents the first action in a
timetable established by the FCC last month to move the white spaces
docket, No. 04-186. Comments on the FNPRM will be due in roughly
three months, according to an FCC staffer. The next item in the
timetable is a report on the interference rejection capability of DTV
receivers, due next March. Then in July 2007, test results on
interference from the devices themselves will be issued. A year from
now, the FCC intends to adopt a second R&O specifying final technical
requirements for low-power devices designed to operate in TV
spectrum; and in December, the commission will begin accepting
applications for certification.
The gizmos will then go on sale in February of 2009, when analog
broadcast signals are no more.
©2006 IMAS Publishing Group.
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