FCC addresses interference issue with TV white spaces | Broadcast | News | Rapid TV News
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The FCC regulatory authority in the US has issued an order making changes to key technical requirements for the use of TV white spaces (TVWS).

fcc 22 march 2019The FCC has set aside TVWS channels for unlicensed use in every market across the country, with the goal of addressing the digital divide in the US. Approximately 34 million Americans currently lack basic broadband access, according to the FCC—and the majority of them — about 24 million — live in rural areas that simply do not have infrastructure in place to enable it.

To address the gap, strategies for making inexpensive unlicensed spectrum available to ISPs have been a cornerstone of the FCC’s plan to bridge the digital divide. It’s an opportunity that Microsoft, Google and others are eyeing with interest.

TVWS can be used to provide broadband in much the same way that a conventional Wi-Fi connection signal does. But while a strong Wi-Fi signal is typically very expensive and only covers a radius of up to 300 meters, TVWS can cover anywhere between 750 meters and nine miles. As TechNet noted in its letter to the FCC, these low-frequency signals are also capable of traversing the physical barriers and long distances that make internet access for rural communities such a challenge.

There’s just one issue: interference. Broadcasters are concerned that having broadband activities operating so close to their critical airwaves could jeopardise signal quality and delivery.

The FCC previously ruled that the 600 MHz duplex gap between 652-663 MHz and Channel 37 would be not be sold to wireless carriers and would be available on an unlicensed basis – an effort that the recent TV spectrum incentive auction carried through on. All TVWS devices will be subject to approval by the FCC laboratory. There are also TVWS databases that regulate available signals to make sure they don’t overlap with other occupants of the spectrum.

However, the National Association of Broadcasters has consistently said that these efforts don’t guarantee clear channels for TV stations.

The FCC’s new order  requires that white spaces devices include internal geo-location capability, both for outdoor and indoor use, and that the devices automatically provide coordinates to the database that is meant to map out the TV frequencies to avoid.

“NAB appreciates the FCC’s decision to strengthen its white spaces rules,” NAB said in a statement. “Requiring automatic geo-location in white spaces devices will help increase accuracy and protect television viewers from harmful interference.”

IT giant Microsoft backed the FCC's approach. A Microsoft spokesperson told Rapid TV News: “Today, the NAB submitted a letter to the FCC, urging them to consider a further notice on several key TV white spaces issues. We appreciate the discussions and collaboration with NAB over the past months that have led to this point, and echo their call to the FCC to move forward with key TV white spaces issues to close the broadband gap.”