Tech Firms to Work on White Spaces Database

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Seven technology vendors, including Microsoft, Google and Dell, have started working together to help create a database of occupied channels in the so-called television white spaces spectrum.

The White Spaces Database Group will help the U.S. Federal Communications Commission identify occupied channels in the television spectrum in an effort to avoid interference from new wireless broadband devices that are coming to the spectrum. In November, the FCC approved the use of new wireless devices in unused areas of the television spectrum.

Several groups, including the National Association of Broadcasters, wireless microphone makers and some churches, protested the FCC's decision, saying the agency and tech firms have not demonstrated technology that will guarantee that other users of the TV spectrum will be free of interference. Like the new wireless devices, wireless microphones use that area of the spectrum without getting a spectrum license from the FCC.

In a series of tests conducted by the FCC, technology designed to sense other spectrum users in real time sometimes failed. But geolocation technology, using a database to identify other spectrum users, avoided interference, the FCC said.

"As the commission made clear in its ruling, a working white spaces database must be deployed in order for consumer devices to be available in the market," Richard Whitt, Google's Washington, D.C., telecom and media counsel, wrote on the Google public policy blog. "Combined with spectrum sensing technologies, use of a geo-location database will offer complete protection to licensed signals from harmful interference."

The database group will offer recommendations to the FCC about the technical requirements needed for the database, Whitt added. "We'll advocate for data formats and protocols that are open and non-proprietary, with database administration that is also open and nonexclusive," he said. "We don't plan to become a database administrator ourselves, but do want to work with the FCC to make sure that a white spaces database gets up and running. We hope that this will unfold in a matter of months, not years."

Other members of the database group are Comsearch, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola and NeuStar.

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