The FCC has announced that on January 24 it will begin a new round of testing of wireless devices that will work in that part of the communications spectrum currently reserved for television station operation. The idea, about which we wrote here, would be that these devices could operate at low power, on channels not used by television stations in a particular market (the so-called "white spaces"), without creating interference to television stations. Proponents (mostly tech and computer companies) claim that these low power devices could be used for wireless broadband and other communications devices, while opponents (principally television broadcasters, but also and wireless microphone companies which operate in the television spectrum) fear that the devices, when released into an unregulated, real-world environment, will create damaging interference to the new digital television operations that begin in February 2009. The Commission’s tests will attempt to resolve this controversy.
The Commission has already once tested some devices, and found them wanting (see our summary here). However, those who support the devices claim that the tests were flawed and one of the devices that was tested was malfunctioning. So the FCC has announced revisions in the testing process, and opened the testing process to public observation. Four devices will be tested. No matter what the results of the tests, you can be sure that the debate will continue.