The National Association of Broadcasters last week filed an emergency motion with the FCC to suspend operation of the TV white spaces database because, according to the NAB, the system has “serious design flaws.” But according to the Wireless Innovation Alliance, the NAB has provided no evidence that FCC requirements are not being met or that any broadcaster has been harmed.
Alleged White Spaces Database Flaws
At issue is the database designed to track where TV broadcast spectrum is and is not in use by a licensed broadcaster. Information from the database is used by TV white spaces (TVWS) broadband equipment, which is designed to automatically configure itself to use unoccupied portions of the TV white spaces spectrum band for wireless broadband Internet services.
Wireless Internet service providers (WISPs) have been deploying TVWS equipment in rural areas that lack other broadband options. Companies administering TVWS databases include Google, Microsoft and others.
In a press release issued March 19, the NAB said it conducted multiple analyses of the TVWS database system and found unlicensed device users provided inaccurate information in all nine of the required fields of the database, including invalid FCC IDs, fake serial numbers and false contact information. Additionally more than one third of fixed TV white spaces devices in the database listed erroneous and “occasionally wildly inaccurate” location data, the NAB said.
The NAB suggested establishing a temporary emergency certification procedure that would require white space device users to attest to the accuracy of their information or face FCC sanction.
The WIA Responds
In a press release issued today, the Wireless Innovation Alliance argued that there has been no interference and no injured broadcasters as a result of the issues that the NAB raised. The alliance argues that the alleged erroneous records are test entries that don’t reflect any actual radio equipment. Instead, the alliance said, “this testing is designed to ensure that equipment communicates with the database as it is required to do.”
According to the WIA, the TVWS database is not open to tampering. “The location for most TVWS devices is determined automatically using GPS,” the WIA said.
Rather than adopting the NAB’s proposed emergency procedures, the WIA suggested that the FCC might consider standardizing the policies for databases to purge inactive transmitter records and possibly take further steps to clarify to broadcasters and others how the TVWS database works.
As for why the NAB made the petition to the FCC, one WISP representative suggested that broadcasters might simply be trying to defend themselves against a perceived threat.
“We think it’s an act of desperation on NAB’s part,” said Alex Phillips, who is vice president of the Wireless Internet Service Providers’ Association as well as CEO of WISP High Speed Link.
Phillips also said there have been no interference problems involving TV white spaces and broadcasters because companies deploying TVWS broadband “have been following rules for testing and deployment.” As the government looks to enable spectrum sharing in more spectrum bands, the TVWS database is likely to become a model for similar databases for the other spectrum bands, Phillips argued.