NFL, ESPN Invite FCC To Test White Space Devices In Real-World Environment

ESPN and the National Football League have filed ex parte comments with and invited the Federal Communications Commission to field test wireless “white spaces” devices under “real world” conditions during the 2008-2009 football season. To date, the FCC has been testing these white space devices, which would operate in the same band of spectrum as microphones, at its labs in Columbia, MD.

“To continue the delivery of the best audio the viewing public is accustomed to, we believe it is essential that field testing studies reflect actual, true-to-life conditions, including testing of wireless microphones and other wireless audio equipment used at these games,” ESPN and NFL stated in the filing. “The conditions at these events provide an excellent opportunity to stage a meaningful, real-world test under actual operating conditions as they exist in a sports stadium to ensure that there is no resulting “harmful interference” to wireless microphones from WSDs.”

“We believe the FCC will be prudent and accept this invitation because it has an obligation to ensure the NFL teams that rely on wireless coaching communications and the tens of millions of football fans who benefit from a richer TV experience thanks to wireless microphones are not forgotten,” said Ken Kerschbaumer, Sports Video Group editorial director. “The developers of white space devices have promised that consumer devices will not interfere with wireless microphone and coach-to-quarterback communication systems. Real-world field tests during the NFL’s pre-season games are a perfect opportunity to prove whether the systems work while minimizing risk to the league and its partners.”

In May, ESPN and the NFL called on the FCC to require the technology companies that want to sell white spaces devices to prove that their devices won’t interfere with wireless microphones.

“We are offering our assistance, expertise, access to facilities and equipment and other resources so that the Commission, including the Office of Engineering and Technology (“OET”), can conduct field testing of the potential impact of [white space devices] on wireless microphone operations during a live sporting event,” ESPN and the NFL stated in their filing. They further offered to hold testing at the Baltimore Raven’s M&T Bank Stadium and the Washington Redskin’s FedExField in Landover, MD, which are close to the FCC’s headquarters. Depending on scheduling testing could also take place at a number of stadiums across the country.

According to the filing, “ESPN’s use of wireless microphones is not a convenience but a necessity to bring the sounds of the event to the viewers. The evolution of wireless technology has finally allowed for placement of microphones in locations previously occupied by wishful thinking. ESPN is now able to place wireless microphones in situations where the laying of cable was not possible or practical, or the laying of cable created a safety hazard to the participants and general public in the venue.”