The FCC this week released the details of its "White Spaces" decision, authorizing the use of both fixed and mobile unlicensed devices within the television spectrum. In theory, these devices are supposed to be able to sense the existence of television signals so that they can operate on other frequencies and avoid creating interference. However, as an extra safety measure, the FCC has also required that these devices connect at least once a day with a database of all other protected users of the television spectrum and, by used of geo-location technology, determine what other users are in the area where the "TVBD" (television band device) is being used and operate on frequencies which protect those other users. Our firm has prepared a memo outlining the full decision. The Davis Wright Tremaine memo can be found here. When one reviews the full text of the FCC decision, it becomes pretty clear that we should not look for such devices anytime soon.
While the Commission’s order actually discussed in some detail the question of whether these devices should be permitted to operate before the end of the digital television conversion in February 2009, given the issues that still need to be resolved, this discussion really appears to be an academic one. First, devices that meet all of the FCC requirements have to be designed and built, and type-accepted by the FCC labs. In a recent article by Shelly Palmer in his well regarded blog on television issues, he suggests that many engineers are convinced that these devices simply will not work. When one reviews the FCC requirements, one can see why that might be the case.