TV white space supporters want two wireless mic channels opened for sharing

Supporters of unlicensed TV white space (TVWS) spectrum told FCC officials last week that as the agency crafts rules for the 600 MHz incentive auctions it should not keep two TV channels reserved exclusively for wireless microphones that are used by TV news networks.

Representatives from the New America Foundation, Public Knowledge and Common Cause made their case before the FCC on behalf of the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition (PISC), which wants the two designated channels for wireless microphones to be maintained but opened for shared unlicensed use with TV band devices (TVBDs). PISC contends microphones should rely first on out-of-market TV co-channels that are not available to unlicensed devices.

The four major broadcast news networks and others earlier sent a letter to the FCC contending that not exclusively reserving those two microphone channels could negatively impact the free flow of information, including lifesaving news, particularly during events covered by hundreds of broadcast journalists.

The FCC's planned incentive auction, in which it hopes to persuade broadcast stations to free up some of their 600 MHz spectrum, is aimed at opening up frequencies for licensed mobile broadband services as well as unlicensed operations in TVWS, the unoccupied spectrum that sits between TV channels.

According to PISC, there are two categories of channels that are unavailable for use by unlicensed devices and therefore available for wireless microphones used by TV broadcasters and others.

One category includes unoccupied TV channels below Channel 21 that are not available for use by mobile TV band devices (TVBDs) and that are available to fixed TVBDs "in the rare (and mostly rural) locations where three consecutive channels are vacant," said PISC.

The second and larger category includes channels where microphones have historically operated co-channel to broadcast stations in distant media markets. PISC offered the example of a Broadway theater in New York, "which should have little concern" about interference from over-the-air TV signals originating 60 miles away in Bridgeport, Conn.

The PISC representatives also expressed their support for the adoption of a sub-1 GHz spectrum holdings limit and urged completion of the general proceeding on aggregation limits prior to setting 600 MHz auction rules. Such limits would primarily affect the ability of AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) to bid in the auction.

"Low frequency spectrum is uniquely valuable, particularly for entrants and competitive carriers, with an enormous foreclosure value to the two dominant carriers that already hold 80 percent of the available CMRS [Commercial Mobile Radio Service] spectrum below 1 GHz," said PISC.

For more:
- see this FCC document and this document (.pdfs)
- see this Broadcasting & Cable article and this article

Special Report: 600 MHz broadcast TV spectrum- Spectrum auction guide

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