Microsoft seeks STA from FCC to test TV white space for agriculture apps

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has filed an application with the FCC for Special Temporary Authority (STA) to test sensors using white space device operations in the VHF and UHF bands to determine their suitability for precision agriculture applications.

If approved, the tests would start in July and run through mid-January 2017. The company says it would test four experimental units manufactured by Microsoft. Some tests would occur at Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Washington, and some would be conducted at farms in Essex, New York, as well as in Carnation, Washington, which is east of Seattle.

However, Microsoft's STA application doesn't offer any other details on the company's ultimate intentions.

Microsoft has been working with industry and government partners around the world to demonstrate the viability and potential of Dynamic Spectrum and TV white spaces for several years. The company says the viability of the technology has been proven in more than a dozen trials and commercial deployments around the world, ranging from remote villages in Africa to dense urban centers in Asia.

In the U.S., the FCC first proposed opening TV white spaces in 2009. The goal was to allow the use of unlicensed wireless transmissions in the TV broadcasting channels that were not being used, the so-called "white spaces" of the band. However, to ensure that those unlicensed transmissions didn't interfere with existing TV broadcasts, the FCC required devices working in the white spaces to register themselves with a TV white spaces database.

Microsoft has said the one essential infrastructure piece needed to deploy a TV white spaces network is a database. The database lets devices in a given area know which spectrum is available for access in that location. Microsoft has received conditional authority from the FCC to serve as a white space database administrator, which requires going through a certification process.

In the United States, the FCC has already approved Google, Telcordia, Spectrum Bridge and Key Bridge as database administrators.

In India, Microsoft recently experienced a setback when the Department of Telecom (DoT) decided not to allocate the 470-582 MHz spectrum band for commercial deployment of TV white space technology, the Hindu Business Line reported. Microsoft has been pushing for deployment of TV white space technology to enable low-cost broadband internet in India.

For more:
- see this FCC filing
- see this Hindu Business Line article

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