FCC Releases Full White-Space Order

The Federal Communications Commission has released the full order providing for both fixed and personal/portable devices to operate in the TV white spaces on an unlicensed basis. The order lays out the details for how unlicensed consumer devices that operate within white-space spectrum will operate, as well as the means that the FCC believes will prevent interference from DTV reception and wireless microphones. For the complete 130-page report, visit www.fcc.gov.

The FCC summarized the Order as follows:

  • All devices, except personal/portable devices operating in client mode, must include a geolocation capability and provisions to access over the Internet a database of protected radio services and the locations and channels that may be used by the unlicensed devices at each location. The unlicensed devices must first access the database to obtain a list of the permitted channels before operating.
  • The database will be established and administered by a third party, or parties, to be selected through a public-notice process to solicit interested parties.
  • Fixed devices may operate on any channel between 2 and 51, except channels 3, 4, and 37, and subject to a number of other conditions, such as a restriction against co-channel operation or operation on adjacent TV channels pending consideration of further information that may be submitted into the record in this proceeding. Fixed devices may operate at up to 4 Watts EIRP (effective isotropic radiated power).
  • Personal portable devices may operate on any unoccupied channel between 21 and 51, except channel 37. Personal portable devices may operate at up to 100 milliwatts of power, except that operation on adjacent channels will be limited to 40 milliwatts.
  • Fixed and personal/portable devices must also have a capability to sense TV broadcasting and wireless microphone signals as a further means to minimize potential interference. However, for TV broadcasting the database will be the controlling mechanism.
  • Wireless microphones will be protected in a variety of ways. The locations where wireless microphones are used, such as entertainment venues and for sporting events, can be registered in the database and will be protected as for other services. In addition, channels 2 “20 will be restricted to fixed devices, and we anticipate that many of these channels will remain available for wireless microphones that operate on an itinerant basis. In addition, in 13 major markets where certain channels between 14 and 20 are used for land mobile operations, we will leave two channels between 21 and 51 free of new unlicensed devices and therefore available for wireless microphones. Finally, as noted above, we have required that devices also include the ability to listen to the airwaves to sense wireless microphones as an additional measure of protection for these devices.
  • Devices must adhere to certain rules to further mitigate the potential interference and to help remedy potential interference should it occur. For example, all fixed devices must register their locations in the database. In addition, fixed devices must transmit identifying information to make it easier to identify them if they are found to interfere. Furthermore, fixed and personal/portable devices operating independently must provide identifying information to the TV bands database. All devices must include adaptable power control so that they use the minimum power necessary to accomplish communications.
  • All white space devices are subject to equipment certification by the FCC Laboratory. The Laboratory will request samples of the devices for testing to ensure that they meet all the pertinent requirements.
  • We will permit applications for certification of devices that do not include the geolocation and database-access capabilities, and instead rely on spectrum sensing to avoid causing harmful interference, subject to a much more rigorous set of tests by our Laboratory in a process that will be open to the public. These tests will include both laboratory and field tests to fully ensure that such devices meet a “Proof of Performance” standard that they will not cause harmful interference. Under this procedure, the Commission will issue a Public Notice seeking comment on the application, as well as test procedures and methodologies. The Commission will also issue a Public Notice seeking comment on its recommendations. The decision to grant such an application will then be made at the Commission level.
  • The Commission will act promptly to remove any equipment found to be causing harmful interference from the market and will require the responsible parties to take appropriate actions to remedy any interference that may occur.