White-space broadband gets more and more complicated

Google, Microsoft and other companies advocating the use of unlicensed white-space spectrum for wireless broadband had to have believed earlier this year that the FCC was going to rubber-stamp the process with relative ease. After all, the commission itself wants to see white-space spectrum.

But now opposition is mounting and the FCC still hasn't gotten over that pesky interference problem. In 2007, the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology found through preliminary trials of the prototypes that "the transmitter in the prototype device is capable of causing interference to TV broadcasting and wireless microphones." Testing continues and hasn't put these devices in the clear.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is waging a bitter fight against white-white space spectrum, fearing interference with the industry's television signals. CTIA now wants white-space spectrum licensed. And more recently, (see story no. 2) hospital technology groups and vendors in the sector are urging the FCC to be careful about allowing unlicensed white-space devices because some of the channels could cause interference with medical devices.

And it won't be long until other groups come forward concerned about the interference problem with wireless microphones. Interestingly, country western artists that include Rascal Flatts, LeAnn Rimes and Martina McBride have mentioned their concern about how interference with their wireless microphones would affect their live concerts, noted Shure Inc., which provides wireless microphone systems. We will likely see some powerful opposition from other members of the music and entertainment industry and those that have a heavily reliance on wireless microphones.

All of this means the FCC has to take a long and thoughtful approach to how it might allow unlicensed white-spectrum devices. Much to the chagrin of Google, we won't likely see any approval this year or even early next year. While the commission was hoping white spaces would provide another avenue to offer more broadband competition, the issues surrounding the spectrum seems to get more complicated by the day. Any move without significant and thorough testing could prove to be disastrous.--Lynnette

P.S. Every year FierceWireless editors evaluate hundreds of the most innovative and smart emerging companies in the wireless industry. Check out our final selection--the top 15--in FierceWireless' annual Fierce 15 list. See it here!