(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
devices, nab, whitespace

fcc, microsoft, nab

Yet Another Microsoft White Space Device Stops Working

from the er...-maybe-test-that-a-bit-longer dept

A bunch of tech firms are asking the FCC to allow them to make use of valuable spectrum that is unused, but controlled by television broadcasters (who don't want to give it up). The FCC has been open to such an idea for many years. Broadcasters own a ridiculously large portion of spectrum, with large parts of it totally unused. The "white space" was designed to prevent interference by not letting anything work on spectrum anywhere near broadcast spectrum. However, many are pointing out that with today's technology, that spectrum could be put to use without any interference. Microsoft and Google have both been big proponents of opening up that white space for use. In order to help show that the interference bogeyman wasn't a real issue, they've sent prototype devices to the FCC to test. Unfortunately, they seem to have trouble keeping those devices in operation. Back in August the FCC noted that the device didn't work, and now a new device from Microsoft has also stopped working.

Now, to be totally clear, the problems with these devices have nothing to do with causing interference. The devices haven't been shown to cause interference -- just to have trouble working. But, of course, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) quickly used these failures to slam the idea of freeing up the whitespace, even though there's still no evidence of interference. With the way the NAB has acted around this issue and the recent XM-Sirius merger debate, you have to conclude that the NAB thinks everyone out there is just completely stupid, and will believe any false or misleading statement it makes. Otherwise it makes no sense for the NAB to make the types of claims it makes on a regular basis. These devices are prototypes, and production devices will be totally different. Either way, the point is not whether the prototypes can keep working, but whether there's interference. That said, it would probably make sense for Microsoft to test these devices a bit more before tossing them over the wall to the FCC.

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  • identicon
    Matt, 31 Mar 2008 @ 7:54pm

    Very nice

    This topic has interested me for awhile now. Personally, I really like some of the idea's google has put forth on how to use the whitespace. (They wanted a certain portion of it to be free or something)

    Anyway, this was a very nice update on the topic :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Reality Check, 31 Mar 2008 @ 8:12pm


    A M$ product not working? Oh heaven!

    The bigger news story would be if it actually DID work

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Haywood, 31 Mar 2008 @ 8:24pm

    I'm for protecting the white space

    Since the only TV I can get is broadcast, I just don't see risking interference. CB radio wasn't supposed to interfere with analog TV, but it did and does. As these devices hit mass production, tolerances will slip, and what was certified not to cross the line, will.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Spuds, 1 Apr 2008 @ 7:23am

      Re: I'm for protecting the white space

      You obviously don't know much about the FCC.

      CB radios do not cause harmful interference-- MISUSE of CB radios (and any amateur RF device) causes harmful interference.

      To that extent, use of a properly grounded and functioning radio (CB, Amateur) causing interference is actually lawfully your problem and not the problem of the operator.

      That isn't to say that you haven't had your share of experiences-- but likely it was not a properly functioning radio to begin with.

      As an amateur radio operator, my rig MUST follow guidelines. If it does, and is properly grounded and tuned-- then the obligation is upon you to fix your TV interference.

      It my rig isn't tuned or properly grounded, I can be fined and even face suspension of my license... not something I want to have happen.


      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Haywood, 1 Apr 2008 @ 9:55am

        Re: Re: I'm for protecting the white space

        Actually I ducked the FCC for years back when CB was licensed. On "know your enemy" I learned quite a bit about them and ham operators for that matter. Hams, are a bit more anal retentive than CB operators, but living in the same neighborhood with one can still be a test. Having some 2 way radio experience, I do a pretty good antenna install, but living in a fringe area, any interference is entirely too much. BTW I had my CB antenna 15' from our home TV antenna and didn't interfere a bit, unless I turned up the amp.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        RF guy, 2 Apr 2008 @ 8:10am

        Re: Re: I'm for protecting the white space

        You obviously don't know much about RF / Audio / WSD.

        The big problem here is that the current devices under test do create harmful interference to wireless microphones, although we here different statements from WSD community.

        The bigger problem is that the WSD was a political decision and the FCC has to find a way. Unfortunatley WSD, or cognitive devices, are far away to be ready for the market.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    audio bob, 31 Mar 2008 @ 11:30pm

    wireless mics too!

    the white space is commonly used by audio guys for wireless mics. there is a concern in that community with the switch to digital tv that there won't be any space for wireless mics to "sneak" in, especially with larger shows needing 80 or so different wireless channels. there has been some efforts to lobby congress, but going up against television stations and google and microsoft, the situation does not look good.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    The munka, 1 Apr 2008 @ 12:54am

    bob, and M$

    Bob.... how would the wireless mic stop working if they stopped broadcasting TV signals on those channels? The mic doesn't "attach" anything to any existing signal, it merely broadcast it's own signal on that channel. THe only thing that would happen about that bob, is the whole "sneaking" thing might be considered interference, if something else will be using that channel in the future, and at that time, i'm sure a nice bluetooth mic will be a reasonable upgrade for you.

    About the M$ devices breaking. These are test devices, they are not final products, and with current restrictions in place, it's not worth the money for M$ to properly develop these into a fully functional device. Their propensity to break is somewhat of a proof of this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      RF guy, 1 Apr 2008 @ 2:46am

      Re: bob, and M$

      current restrictions:
      If WSD's would show compatibility to existing services they could start in january 2009 - whre is the restriction. They just failed in technology so far.

      Wireless mcirophones:
      Interference to wireless mcirophones means finaloly 'not working' - or how much noise and other artefacts od you accept listening to your audio (DVD, CD, MP3,...)?

      How much latency between visual and audio signal is ok with you? Or resend on word as it was disturbed? Simply: absolutely not working!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Adam, 1 Apr 2008 @ 8:36am

    So even with the devices failing to work properly they still do not cause any interference. That would seem to help the device get approved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jim, 1 Apr 2008 @ 11:01am

    White Space

    The real challenge to what Microsoft/Google want to do with their new Radios is not trying to make the technology work, it will be dealing with the Big Carriers/Telco who just spent multiple BILLION $$$ on the Licensed 700Mhz Spectrum.
    These big boys will fight the FCC on making this an Unlicensed spectrum (in essence free to providers)that will create competitive problems when deployed against their new Cell Nets with 700Mhz.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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