Google, Microsoft wage war of words with GE Healthcare, others over white space rules

In a long-running battle that pits Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) against GE Healthcare, the WMTS Coalition and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the FCC is being asked to reconsider some of its rules for the operation of white space devices in the 600 MHz band.

The comments are part of a proceeding where the WMTS Coalition, representing the interests of the Wireless Medical Telemetry Service community, opposes petitions for reconsideration filed by Google and Microsoft, which want the FCC to consider changes to proposed rules for white-space devices in the repurposed 600 MHz band and remaining television bands.

GE Healthcare and WMTS say that given the nature of WMTS and the potential catastrophic consequences of even a single case of harmful interference on patient safety, the commission should deny Microsoft's requests to "undermine the significance of the initial test deployments" and its attempts to make it more difficult for hospitals to seek temporary relief when they experience harmful interference.

GE Healthcare also is telling the commission to deny Google's request to set a nationwide deployment date for white space devices on Channel 37 without waiting to see the results of initial test deployments.

Microsoft is dismissive of a lot of their arguments, many of which -- in the company's opinion -- already have been addressed or should have been raised earlier. "These petitions seek -- almost exclusively -- to either reopen debate on technical matters that were the subject of substantial record comment and thorough consideration by the Commission, or present new arguments that could and should have been raised a year ago," Microsoft said in its filing.

Microsoft also calls out WMTS' petitions on a technicality, saying they're procedurally flawed because they exceed the commission's page limit requirements. The WMTS Coalition petition is 38 pages long, and the GE Healthcare petition is 44 pages long, not including cover pages, tables of contents, executive summaries or attached exhibits. The FCC's requirements limit the length of petitions for reconsideration to 25 pages.

In a separate filing, Google points out that hospitals are often constructed of commercial-grade materials that shield radio signals more than average walls and windows. As a result, WMTS receivers get more protection by virtue of their location than LTE or DTV receivers, whose antennas are frequently outdoors or in residential buildings.

Google also argues that the NAB's proposal to require unlicensed devices to report to the database their actual operating channels and power levels would put unnecessary burdens on unlicensed devices and database operators.

The WMTS Coalition, for its part, says both Google and Microsoft base the need for reconsideration on faulty premises. "Microsoft is simply wrong in suggesting that the anticipated tests are intended merely to confirm the ability of white-space databases to protect incumbent licensees," the coalition states, adding that it is entirely reasonable for the commission to insist on additional and more extensive tests in a variety of locations and operating environments before enabling Channel 37 for use by "tens of thousands," and potentially millions of unlicensed devices that could interfere with licensed systems serving patients.

"Rather than rushing through a cursory test, the Commission must deal with the significant complexities associated with such test beds, including safety issues and ethical issues associated with testing at a hospital where WMTS is serving critical care patient requirements," the coalition argues. "WMTS systems are in use for critical patient care and not easily segregated for testing – as a general rule, there are no 'off hours' when patients are not being monitored during which testing can be readily completed."

Last August, the FCC adopted a Report and Order that modernizes its Part 15 rules, with new rules permitting unlicensed fixed and personal/portable white space devices and unlicensed wireless microphones to use channels in the 600 MHz and TV broadband bands. Google and Microsoft were among those who filed petitions for reconsideration on certain parts of the order.

For more:
- see this GE Healthcare filing
- see this Microsoft filing
- see this Google filing

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