Google Makes It to Finish Line In White Space Coordinator Race, Again

Google joins Key Bridge Global LLC, Spectrum Bridge, Telcordia and, um, Google, in the ranks of “approved” database coordinators.

Add one more (sort of) database coordinator to the “approved” list of white space database coordinators. The Commission has announced that Google has made it to the finish line – it's been approved to coordinate unlicensed “TV white space” devices. This is the second time Google has completed the process. As we have previously reported, Google was first approved in May, 2013. But then last June the Commission announced that Google had come back with a “major modification” to its already approved system – so much of a modification that it needed to go through the approval process again. (While that process chugged on, Google used the also-approved Spectrum Bridge system.) Now that modified Google system has been approved.

Google’s latest success has been included in the appropriate box below.

Five down (if you count Google twice), six to go. Check back here for further updates. 

(Fuzzy on the whole white space database administrator question?  Check out this post for some background.)

Coordinator

Test Started

Test Finished; Comments Sought

Coordinator Approved

Comsearch

Feb. 24, 2014

June 23, 2014

 

Frequency Finder Inc.

     

Google Inc.

Feb. 27, 2013

May 29, 2013

June 28, 2013

Google Inc. II

June 2, 2014

July 29, 2014

Sept. 10, 2014

LS telcom AG

June 18, 2013

     Nov. 14, 2013

 

Key Bridge Global LLC

March 4, 2013

May 29, 2013

 Nov. 19, 2013

Microsoft Corp.

     

Neustar Inc.

     

Spectrum Bridge Inc.

Sept. 14, 2011

Nov. 10, 2011

Dec. 22, 2011

Telcordia Technologies

Dec. 2, 2011

Feb. 1, 2012

March 26, 2012

   WSdb LLC

     

 

Testing Completed For Seventh White Space Database System

Google wraps up trials on its modified system; FCC invites comments

Looks like it’s time to fill yet another white space in on our white space grid. According to the FCC, hot on the heels of Comsearch (which wrapped up its testing just last month), Google has completed the testing of its modified white space database system. With the report of those tests now on file, the Commission is soliciting comments on the report and on Google’s tests generally. Comments are due by August 13, 2014; replies are due by August 19.

As our handy-dandy white space chart indicates, of the 11 database systems proposed thus far, only four have made it through the FCC’s gantlet to achieve approval so far – and it’s been that way since last November. But with the completion of Comsearch’s testing last month and Google II’s now, we may be looking at a couple more approvals in the not too distant future. Check back here for updates.

(Fuzzy on the whole white space database administrator question?  Check out this post for some background.)

Coordinator

Test Started

Test Finished; Comments Sought

Coordinator Approved

Comsearch

Feb. 24, 2014

June 23, 2014

 

Frequency Finder Inc.

     

Google Inc.

Feb. 27, 2013

May 29, 2013

June 28, 2013

Google Inc. II

June 2, 2014

July 29, 2014

 

LS telcom AG

June 18, 2013

     Nov. 14, 2013

 

Key Bridge Global LLC

March 4, 2013

May 29, 2013

 Nov. 19, 2013

Microsoft Corp.

     

Neustar Inc.

     

Spectrum Bridge Inc.

Sept. 14, 2011

Nov. 10, 2011

Dec. 22, 2011

Telcordia Technologies

Dec. 2, 2011

Feb. 1, 2012

March 26, 2012

   WSdb LLC

     

Sixth White Space Coordinator Completes Tests

Comsearch wraps up tests, FCC invites comments.

The FCC has asked for comment on white space database tests recently conducted by Comsearch.  Comsearch’s test report can be found here.

It’s been about three and a half years since Comsearch (and eight other database administrator wannabes) got the initial nod from the FCC. But things have moved slowly since then. The original group of nine was eventually expanded to ten when Microsoft arrived late to the party, and most recently to 11 when Google tossed in a "major modification" to its previously-approved system. Before any administrator can be finally approved, its proposed system has to be tested, and the test results must be made available for public comment. Only four of the 11 systems have made it all the way through to final approval thus far. One other (LS telcom AG) has finished its testing but still hasn’t gotten the FCC thumbs up.

Our CommLawBlog entry reporting the commencement of Comsearch’s tests may be found here.

Comments on the Comsearch test report are due by July 8, 2014 and reply comments by July 15.

For background on the databases and what they do, see this article.

Coordinator

Test Started

Test Finished; Comments Sought

Coordinator Approved

Comsearch

Feb. 24, 2014

June 23, 2014

 

Frequency Finder Inc.

 

 

 

Google Inc.

Feb. 27, 2013

May 29, 2013

June 28, 2013

Google Inc. II

June 2, 2014

 

 

LS telcom AG

June 18, 2013

     Nov. 14, 2013

 

Key Bridge Global LLC

March 4, 2013

May 29, 2013

  Nov. 19, 2013

Microsoft Corp.

 

 

 

Neustar Inc.

 

 

 

Spectrum Bridge Inc.

Sept. 14, 2011

Nov. 10, 2011

Dec. 22, 2011

Telcordia Technologies

Dec. 2, 2011

Feb. 1, 2012

March 26, 2012

   WSdb LLC

 

 

 

White Space Database Update: Google v.2 Now in Beta

There’s been some movement on the white space database administrator front – but it’s hard to call it progress. Readers will recall that Google got its database system approved nearly a year ago. But now comes word from the Office of Engineering and Technology that Google has come up with a “new registration system” which is a “major modification” to the Google system previously approved. That means that the new version will have to be run through the same hoops as the original. Accordingly, for a 45-day test period beginning on June 2, 2014, Google’s new system will be available for public trials. Interested folks can give it the once-over, kick the tires, take it for a spin and see if it does what it’s supposed to.

When the test wraps up – on July 17, or maybe later if the FCC decides more testing is called for – we’ll see the usual drill: Google will have to file a report on the test, public comment on the report will be invited and, if everything works out Google’s way, the FCC will eventually re-approve it as a coordinator. If and when that happens, Google’s new system will rejoin the others already approved.

OET’s public notice indicates that Google is currently relying on Spectrum Bridge (another already-approved coordinator) to manage registration of protected entities on Google’s behalf. Google’s new system is intended to “replace [Google’s] use of the Spectrum Bridge procedures”. What precisely has become of Google’s originally approved system is not clear.

Four other candidates have still not reached the testing phase, so check back here for updates.

In keeping with our white space database SOP, we have updated our handy-dandy table charting the progress of each of the would-be administrators by inserting a new row (for “Google Inc. II”) to track the progress of the latest test process:

Coordinator

Test Started

Test Finished; Comments Sought

Coordinator Approved

Comsearch

Feb. 24, 2014

   

Frequency Finder Inc.

     

Google Inc.

Feb. 27, 2013

May 29, 2013

June 28, 2013

Google Inc. II

June 2, 2014

   

LS telecom AG

June 18, 2013

     Nov. 14, 2013

 

Key Bridge Global LLC

March 4, 2013

May 29, 2013

   Nov. 19, 2013

Microsoft Corp.

     

Neustar Inc.

     

Spectrum Bridge Inc.

Sept. 14, 2011

Nov. 10, 2011

Dec. 22, 2011

Telcordia Technologies

Dec. 2, 2011

Feb. 1, 2012

March 26, 2012

   WSdb LLC      

White Space Database Update: Comsearch System Ready for Testing

 After a three-month period of inactivity, there’s a sign of life on the white space database administrator front. Finally breaking out of the starting blocks, Comsearch’s TV Band Database System is now ready for public testing. According to a public notice from the Office of Engineering and Technology, that system will get a 45-day test run beginning on February 24, 2014, followed by the well-established drill: Comsearch will have to file a report on the test, public comment on the report will be invited and, if everything works out Comsearch’s way, the FCC will eventually approve it as a coordinator. If and when that happens, Comsearch will join the four others already approved. (For those of you may have lost track, those would be Google, Inc., Key Bridge Global LLC, Spectrum Bridge Inc. and Telcordia Technologies.)

Four other candidates have still not reached the testing phase, so check back here for updates.

In keeping with our white space database SOP, we have updated our handy-dandy table charting the progress of each of the would-be administrators: 

Coordinator

Test Started

Test Finished; Comments Sought

Coordinator Approved

Comsearch

 Feb. 24, 2014    

Frequency Finder Inc.

     

Google Inc.

Feb. 27, 2013

May 29, 2013

June 28, 2013

LS telecom AG

June 18, 2013

     Nov. 14, 2013

 

Key Bridge Global LLC

March 4, 2013

May 29, 2013

   Nov. 19, 2013

Microsoft Corp.

     

Neustar Inc.

     

Spectrum Bridge Inc.

Sept. 14, 2011

Nov. 10, 2011

Dec. 22, 2011

Telcordia Technologies

Dec. 2, 2011

Feb. 1, 2012

March 26, 2012

WSdb LLC

     

Key Bridge Global LLC Becomes Fourth "White Space" Coordinator to Win Approval

Key Bridge Global LLC joins Google, Spectrum Bridge and Telcordia in the ranks of “approved” database coordinators.

Our handy-dandy table for tracking the progress of would-be white space database administrators is getting a work-out. Just last week we noted the completion of
L S Telcom’s testing
, and now it’s Key Bridge Global LLC’s turn. The Commission has announced the Key Bridge has made it to the finish line – it has been approved to provide service to certified unlicensed devices operating in the TV white spaces. This latest notice has been included in the appropriate box below.

Four down, six to go. Check back here for further updates. 

(Fuzzy on the whole white space database administrator question?  Check out this post for some background.)

Coordinator

Test Started

Test Finished; Comments Sought

Coordinator Approved

Comsearch

     

Frequency Finder Inc.

     

Google Inc.

Feb. 27, 2013

May 29, 2013

June 28, 2013

LS telecom AG

June 18, 2013

     Nov. 14, 2013

 

Key Bridge Global LLC

March 4, 2013

May 29, 2013

   Nov. 19, 2013

Microsoft Corp.

     

Neustar Inc.

     

Spectrum Bridge Inc.

Sept. 14, 2011

Nov. 10, 2011

Dec. 22, 2011

Telcordia Technologies

Dec. 2, 2011

Feb. 1, 2012

March 26, 2012

WSdb LLC

     

 

Fifth White Space Coordinator Completes Tests

The FCC requests comment on white space database tests recently conducted by LS telcom AG.

The FCC has asked for comment on white space database tests recently conducted by LS telcom AG.  The test report can be found here. Mark your scorecards: LS telcom is the fifth would-be administrator to complete its testing. Five down, five to go.

Our CommLawBlog entry reporting the commencement of LS telcom’s tests may be found here.

Comments on the test report are due by November 29, 2013 and reply comments by December 6.

For background on the databases and what they do, see this article.

Coordinator

Test Started

Test Finished; Comments Sought

Coordinator Approved

Comsearch

     

Frequency Finder Inc.

     

Google Inc.

Feb. 27, 2013

May 29, 2013

June 28, 2013

LS telcom AG

June 18, 2013

      Nov. 14, 2013

 

Key Bridge Global LLC

March 4, 2013

May 29, 2013

 

Microsoft Corp.

     

Neustar Inc.

     

Spectrum Bridge Inc.

Sept. 14, 2011

Nov. 10, 2011

Dec. 22, 2011

Telcordia Technologies

Dec. 2, 2011

Feb. 1, 2012

March 26, 2012

WSdb LLC

     

 

 

 

 

Google Becomes Third "White Space" Coordinator to Win Approval

Google joins Spectrum Bridge and Telcordia in the ranks of “approved” database coordinators.

Providing us with the first test of our recently announced approach to further developments on the white space database administrator front, the FCC has approved Google’s system.  We have updated our table accordingly. 

Coordinator

Test Started

Test Finished; Comments Sought

Coordinator Approved

Comsearch

     

Frequency Finder Inc.

     

Google Inc.

Feb. 27, 2013

May 29, 2013

June 28, 2013

LS telecom AG

June 18, 2013

   

Key Bridge Global LLC

March 4, 2013

May 29, 2013

 

Microsoft Corp.

     

Neustar Inc.

     

Spectrum Bridge Inc.

Sept. 14, 2011

Nov. 10, 2011

Dec. 22, 2011

Telcordia Technologies

Dec. 2, 2011

Feb. 1, 2012

March 26, 2012

WSdb LLC

     

Fifth "White Space" Coordinator Begins Tests

LS telcom AG seeks to join the two coordinators operating and two others awaiting approval.

TV “white space” devices operate on TV channels that are vacant in a given area. (On a map of frequency usage, these areas show up in white; hence the name.)

These devices must avoid causing interference to active TV stations, certain wireless microphones, and certain TV reception sites. To accomplish this, most are required to consult a complex and changing database that shows where they can safely operate.

The FCC has identified ten administrators for the database, expected to operate competitively. Before receiving FCC approval, each candidate must run a live test of its operations, submit test reports to the FCC, and survive public comment.

We here in the CommLawBlog bunker have covered developments on the white space database coordination front for several years. Most recently, those developments have been somewhat repetitive and our posts were all starting to look the same. We tried to mix things up a bit with poetry (limericks! a haiku!) . . . but soon found the limit to our poetic abilities.

So here’s what we plan to do going forward.

The table below reflects all the would-be database coordinators and all the steps on the way to FCC approval. Each time there is a new development, we will post an updated version of the table. Dates in the table reflect the dates of the FCC public notices relevant to the particular event. Clicking on a date brings up the respective public notice. The date shown in bold face red will always be the most recent event. 

Coordinator

Test Started

Test Finished; Comments Sought

Coordinator Approved

Comsearch

     

Frequency Finder Inc.

     

Google Inc.

Feb. 27, 2013

May 29, 2013

 

LS telcom AG

June 18, 2013

   

Key Bridge Global LLC

March 4, 2013

May 29, 2013

 

Microsoft Corp.

     

Neustar Inc.

     

Spectrum Bridge Inc.

Sept. 14, 2011

Nov. 10, 2011

Dec. 22, 2011

Telcordia Technologies

Dec. 2, 2011

Feb. 1, 2012

March 26, 2012

WSdb LLC

     


Prosaic, perhaps, but far less taxing on our limited creative resources and, in the end, probably a more useful way of keeping our readers abreast of the overall database coordinator scene. 

[Blogmeister's Note: We are hoping to work a deal with somebody (are you listening, Starbucks and Chipotle?) so that, when the table has been completely filled up, our readers will be able to print it out and present it for a free cup of coffee or maybe a burrito.  Check back here for updates.]

White Space Database Update

The FCC requests comment on white space database tests recently conducted by Google, Inc. and Key Bridge Global LLC.

In separate public notices, the FCC has asked for comment on white space database tests recently conducted by Google, Inc. and Key Bridge Global LLC. (The FCC paperwork misidentifies the second company as "Keybridge Global Inc.") Their respective test reports are here and here. Mark your scorecards: once approved, these will be database managers numbers 3 and 4.

Prior CommLawBlog entries on these tests are here and here.

Comments on both tests are due on June 13, 2013 and reply comments in June 20.

For background on the databases and what they do, see this article.

[Blogmeister’s Note: In keeping with the practice we introduced with our last white space database post, we have sought to capture the essence of these recent developments poetically:

An FCC Haiku to the Public

Key Bridge and Google
filed database test reports.
Comments?  We’re all ears.]

Fourth "White Space" Database Coordinator Tees Up Tests

Next up is Key Bridge Global LLC.

Add Key Bridge Global LLC to the list of TV “white space” database coordinators ready for testing. White space systems, we all know, operate in locally vacant TV spectrum; most must consult a database of other users to avoid causing interference. Of the ten FCC-approved coordinators eligible to provide access to the database, Spectrum Bridge, Inc. and Telcordia Technologies, Inc. have successfully completed their tests and are authorized to support white space devices nationwide, while Google and now Key Bridge Global are in the test preparation phase.

We will keep on keeping track.

[Blogmeister’s Note: As much as we here at CommLawBlog enjoy keeping everybody up-to-date on doings at the FCC, there are limits. Since the FCC started implementing its white space database coordination process, we’ve reported on the appointments of nine -- and then a tenth -- database administrators, three test launches, two requests for public comment on test results, and two final approvals. This post marks the fourth test launch. They are all starting to look the same.

We’re happy to keep reporting as we have done but, frankly, the repetition gets a bit tedious. So we offer here an alternative approach: limericks! 

Here are some examples. We encourage our readers to try their hand, too – submit them as comments. (Nothing X-rated, please.) We’ll post them without criticism. Honest.

Key Bridge Global Authorized to Test

Said the FCC Chief Engineer
To Key Bridge: "Do your test, do you hear?
Just prove you comply --
No, there’s no second try.
Get it right, or you’re out on your rear."

Summary of the White Space Coordination Program To Date

The FCC said to the nation:
We’ve settled on this delegation –
Just ten firms – no more –
That will take on the chore
Of inputting white space co’rdination.

Spectrum Bridge, Inc. became number one.
Telcordia’s next in the sun,
And then Google was blessed
With permission to test . . .
But the FCC still wasn’t done.

Next in line: Key Bridge LLC Global
Coordinates fixed and, yes, mobile
Devices that choose
Just what spectrum to use
And with no interference – that’s no bull.

The Commission has clearly mandated
That each of the firms designated
Will assure straightaway
That white spaces will stay
Non-color co-ordinated.]

Third "White Space" Database Coordinator to Begin Tests

Google is up next; seven more to come.

Unlicensed “white space” devices, which operate in locally vacant TV spectrum, rely on a database of other users to avoid causing interference. The FCC has approved ten coordinators to provide access to the database, and has completed tests on two: Spectrum Bridge, Inc. and Telcordia Technologies, Inc. The FCC subsequently authorized white space operation over much of the eastern United States.

Now the FCC has announced tests of a third provider, a relative unknown called Google Inc. The 45-day public trial will begin on March 4. Details are here. We will let you know the results.

Seven more to go.

FCC Okays Second Area for "White Space" Operations

If you live in Nottoway County, Virginia, you’re in luck.

The FCC has authorized TV white space database coordinator Telcordia to offer service within Nottoway County, Virginia, a mostly rural area toward the southern part of the state. Initial operations will include 20 sites serving rural schools and households. The action comes less than a month after the FCC approved Telcordia’s database, and four months after the first white space operations were approved for Wilmington, NC by coordinator Spectrum Bridge, Inc.

Included in the Nottoway County order are special procedures for registering wireless microphones entitled to protection from white space devices.

We assume the pace of approvals will pick up. At the current rate, we calculate it will take until the year 2797 before white space systems are fully deployed. By then, we expect to be communicating telepathically via devices wired into our nervous systems. Assuming, of course, the FCC can free up enough spectrum.

Second "White Space" Coordinator Approved

Operations are still limited to Wilmington, NC.

The FCC has announced that Telcordia Technologies, one of the ten database managers for “white space” operations, has been approved to provide service to the public. See the details here. Telcordia, which completed its test in January, is the second database manager to secure this approval.   Eight more are waiting in the wings.

But most of the public that Telcordia is authorized to serve will have to wait for that service. For now the FCC has approved white space operations only in Wilmington, NC.

Second "White Space" Database Completes Test

FCC requests public comment on results of Telcordia system testing

“White space” wireless operation on locally vacant TV channels requires that devices consult a database of users entitled to protection, including broadcast TV stations and some wireless microphones. See a list here. The FCC has authorized ten companies to provide and operate those databases. The second such company, Telcordia Technologies Inc., recently completed a 45-day test that began in December.

The FCC now seeks public input on the Telcordia results, which are posted here. Comments are due on February 16, 2012, and reply comments on February 23.

In the meantime, white space operations were scheduled to begin last week in Wilmington, NC, using a database provided by Telcordia’s competitor, Spectrum Bridge, the first to complete testing.

There are still eight database providers to go. We will keep track so you don’t have to.

FCC Approves First "White Space" Operations

First white space database and end-user devices to begin operation in January in Wilmington, NC.

The FCC has approved the first “white space” database and the first end-user devices to begin operation on January 26, 2012, initially limited to the Wilmington, NC area.

White space devices are supposed to provide Wi-Fi-like services, only better, using locally vacant TV channels. Successful operation will depend on complex databases to help each device identify channels on which it can safely operate, without causing interference to TV stations, radio astronomy, wireless microphones, and several other services entitled to protection. We reported just last month that the first of ten FCC-approved database providers, Spectrum Bridge Inc., had posted the results from a 45-day test of its system. The FCC has now announced its acceptance of that system, and simultaneously, its approval of an end-user white space device that operates in conjunction with the Spectrum Bridge database.

Operators of the various services protected against the devices – see a list here – should make sure their facilities are properly listed in the database.

White space operations will be limited at the outset to the environs of Wilmington, NC. Wilmington was also the city chosen by the FCC a few years back for an early trial of the cut-over from analog to digital TV. We’re not sure why the FCC keeps putting Wilmington’s TV reception at risk. Perhaps the city is an unheralded center for high-tech early adopters. Or the home of someone whom the FCC just doesn’t like.

Another White Space Database Ready to Make Its Debut

Telcordia Tech testing to take off 12/7.

Last September we reported on the fact that one of the nine (oops, make that ten) white space database administrators had announced that its system was ready to have its tires kicked. That 45-day test has since wrapped up, and the Commission has since invited comments on the results. 

And now a second database administrator – Telcordia Technologies, Inc. – has given the word that it, too, is ready for testing . . . or at least it will be, as of December 7. That date will kick off Telcordia’s 45-day test period, during which members of the public are invited to run the Telcordia system through its paces to ensure that it does what it’s supposed to do. (In case you’ve forgotten, all white space database systems are expected to (1) correctly identify channels in the TV band that are available for unlicensed operation, (2) register facilities in that band that are entitled to protection, and (3) afford protection to authorized services and registered facilities as specified in the Commission’s rules.)

You can access the Telcordia system at https://prism.telcordia.com/tvws/home/trial starting December 7 (but not before) and running through January 20, 2012, possibly longer if the Commission determines that an extension is warranted. The Commission encourages the public to take the system for a test drive to make sure that it's doing what it’s supposed to do. Items available for testing include a channel availability calculator, and separate utilities to register: MVPD receive sites; broadcast auxiliary temporary receive sites; fixed TVWS devices; and wireless microphones. Obviously, if any inaccuracies pop up, they should be reported to Telcordia pronto.

Check out our previous posts for more background on the white space database administrator program.

FCC Seeks Comment on "White Space" Database Test

The first of ten database administrators has posted the results of a 45-day test.

We reported back in September about a test of the first database for “white space” devices meant to provide Wi-Fi-like service on unused TV channels. The database – developed by Spectrum Bridge Inc. – is intended to help prevent interference from those devices into TV receivers, wireless microphones, and other authorized users of the bands. The FCC invited public participation in a 45-day online test.

Spectrum Bridge has completed its trials and submitted a “summary report” about it to the Commission. The FCC, in turn, is now requesting public input on the test result and the summary report. The request includes links to the report and three attachments submitted by Spectrum Bridge. We have been unable to access the Spectrum Bridge report and attachments by using the links provided in the FCC’s release. Presumably this is just a slight technical glitch that the FCC will correct.  However, since the Commission’s notice came out just before the start of a three-day weekend, we thought our readers might appreciate some working links to the Spectrum Bridge materials now, to give them something to pore through over the long weekend. Here they are:

The Spectrum Bridge summary report

Attachment 1 – “Dashboard” (statistics concerning traffic to the Spectrum Bridge test site)

Attachment 2 – Registration Records

Attachment 3 – Comments

Attachment 3, in particular, makes for interesting reading. It reflects a number of comments, criticisms and inquiries submitted to Spectrum Bridge during the test, and Spectrum Bridge’s responses. Some of the problems identified in the test are troubling.  For instance, Spectrum Bridge’s database ignored, at least initially, some facilities whose licenses (a) appeared to have expired but (b) were actually still in effect because of pending litigation relative to renewal of the licenses.  But it does appear that Spectrum Bridge was responsive to the problems. We shall see.

Comments on the Spectrum Bridge report are due on November 28, 2011, and reply comments on December 5.

First "White Space" Database Ready for Testing

Anyone can visit the test site to try out the white space channel availability calculator, the wireless microphone registration utility, and other functions.

Those long-promised “white space” devices, delivering super-Wi-Fi performance on locally unused TV channels, are moving a small step closer to reality.

The delay in actual availability – initial rules were adopted almost three years ago – results from the fact that these devices must protect several other services from interference. The main mechanism to achieve that protection is a set of databases that list the locations and frequencies of the services entitled to protection. A white space device is supposed to check in with a database for a safe frequency assignment before transmitting. The first of those databases is now ready for testing.

The services that qualify for protection, and which hence must be listed in the databases, are:

  • broadcast television stations (including full power, TV translator, low power TV, and Class A stations);
  • fixed broadcast auxiliary service links;
  • receive sites (and received channels) of TV translator, low power TV and Class A TV stations and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs);
  • private land mobile radio service and commercial mobile radio service operations
  • offshore radio telephone service operations;
  • radio astronomy operations at specific sites; and
  • certain wireless microphone operations.

The FCC has approved ten database administrators to keep track of these services. The idea is for each administrator to set up its own separate database. Each of the ten will extract information on protected services from the FCC’s licensing databases, or from the rules (except for some MVPD and wireless microphone information, which must be entered by hand by interested parties). This information need be entered into only one database, which will automatically share that information with the other nine – so that, as a result, all ten reflect the same protected services. Similarly, no matter which of the ten databases a white space device chooses to consult, it should get back the same information on available channels.

That is the theory, at least. Coordinating ten very large, constantly changing databases, each of a different fundamental design, is likely to present problems in practice.

The first of the ten databases is now ready for a 45-day period of public testing. Beginning on September 19, anyone can visit this site to test the white space channel availability calculator, the cable headend and broadcast auxiliary temporary receive site registration utilities, and the wireless microphone registration utility. Unfortunately the all-important sharing function among databases is not yet ready to try out.

Give it a try, and let us know what you find.

White Spaces Update: OMB Signs Off on Information Collections

One small step for white spaces technology . . .

The long-running, slow-paced white spaces proceeding has quietly moved ahead with OMB approval of the “information collection” requirements of Sections 15.713, 15.714, 15.715 and 15.717. Notice of that approval has just been published in the Federal Register. That means that the FCC may implement those requirements, effective now.

But don’t run down to your local Radio Shack looking for miracle white spaces devices just yet. Before the Commission can start to unleash the power of the white spaces, it’s got to settle on a database design. While the Commission has at least identified its initial corps of database managers – originally a nine-member team to which a late-arriving Microsoft was recently added as a tenth – the system which those managers will be charged with implementing is still a work in progress.

Check back here for updates.

And Microsoft Makes Ten

Microsoft decided it, too, wants to be a wireless TV Band Device database administrator.  Well, so do we.

The FCC spent calendar year 2010 studying applications from nine companies that want to be wireless TV Band Device (TVBD) database administrators. The successful applicants will coordinate devices, when they become available, that operate in TV “white space” frequencies. 

Some of the nine applicants, like Google and Comsearch, have enormous expertise in large databases, while some of the others do not.

Last January the FCC, rather than pick winners and losers, simply approved all nine companies that applied.

A few weeks ago Microsoft decided it, too, wants to be a database administrator. Never mind that Microsoft came to this realization 15 months after the application deadline, and three months after the FCC’s decision naming the other nine administrators. Never mind the FCC’s insistence on deadlines in other contexts. (Try sending in your FCC license renewal 15 months after it was due.) Microsoft for some reason gets a pass, not to mention full consideration of its application: the Commission has invited comments on Microsoft’s proposal. “We intend to consider designating Microsoft as a TV bands database administrator,” says the FCC’s public notice.   After all, it continues, Microsoft representatives attended both of the FCC’s database administrator workshops. With a track record like that, why should deadlines matter?

Omitted from the public notice, although possibly a factor in the FCC’s thinking, is that Microsoft, along with a hardware company, demonstrated a TVBD system at the National Association of Broadcasters show in April. The set-up included Microsoft’s prototype white-space database software, which sounds impressive. But the actual operations involved exactly one base station, one client station, and one pretend signal entitled to protection – a far cry from an actual working system in the real world.

Also omitted from the public notice, but probably not a factor in the FCC’s thinking, is Microsoft’s own observation that becoming a database administrator would “enable it to assist its customers in bringing many white spaces applications to market quickly and efficiently.” So what’s good for Microsoft is good for . . . um, Microsoft.

We have no doubt that Microsoft’s qualifications equal or exceed those of at least some of the nine companies selected earlier. Not obvious, though, is that Microsoft’s qualifications are so overwhelming as to justify re-opening the application process after more than a year. Hey, if it’s that easy, we might put in an application ourselves, and make some extra money at home in our spare time. And maybe Microsoft can help us with that long-overdue FCC license renewal.

White Spaces Reminder: Deadline For Registering Distant OTA Receive Sites Fast Approaching

Initial deadline: April 5, 2011

If you’re a TV licensee providing over-the-air feeds to one or more distant translator/LPTV/Class A stations, cable head-ends or satellite local receive sites, heads up. You need to act soon if you want reception of your signal at those sites to be protected from unlicensed devices operating in the TV band. April 5, 2011 is the deadline for TV stations with receive sites more than 80 kilometers beyond their protected contour to seek a waiver of the Commission’s geographic limitation to be able to register such receive locations. Note: this is a one-time-only opportunity.

Back in 2008, when the Commission adopted rules to govern the operation of unlicensed devices in the so-called “TV white spaces”, it sought to protect existing TV operations by establishing a database in which certain locations requiring protection could be registered. While receive locations that happen to be within a TV station’s protected service area were already routinely protected, that wasn’t the case for receive sites serving distant TV translator/LPTV/Class A TV stations, satellite or cable (MVPD) services, all of which deliver the signal to viewers outside the originating station’s protected contour. The Commission decided to protect, within reasonable bounds, the ability of such stations and services to receive programming over-the-air for retransmission.  “Within reasonable bounds” in this context meant within 80 kilometers of the originating TV station’s protected contour. Translator/LPTV/Class A stations and MVPD services with receive sites so located were thus allowed to register their sites in the TV bands device database.

On reconsideration, though, the FCC determined that some MVPD services and translator/LPTV/Class A stations relying on over-the-air reception to obtain and redistribute TV signals are located more than 80 kilometers from the originating TV station’s protected service contour. In order to avoid disruption in those circumstances, the Commission opted to expand the notion of “within reasonable bounds” temporarily: it provided a 90-day opportunity (commencing with the effective date of the rules) for MVPD’s, TV translator, LPTV and Class A TV stations to request a rule waiver to allow them to register their receive locations in the TV bands devices database. This opportunity is available only for locations at which the TV programming is received over-the-air more than 80 kilometers from the originating station’s protected contour.

The initial 90-day waiver request filing period will expire on April 5, 2011. (Facilities that meet the geographic standards but don’t get licensed until later will have 90 days, starting with commencement of operation, to file for a waiver.)

Waiver requests should demonstrate how the operation of an unlicensed device near the relevant receive site would act to disrupt current patterns of television viewing. After a waiver request is received, the FCC will put it out for public comment and then will make a determination as to whether it will be granted.

The Commission has not yet provided any special instructions for the filing of such a waiver request.  Check back here for updates on that score. But absent any such instructions, it would appear that filing through the Secretary’s office with a reference to ET Docket Nos. 02-380 and 04-186 should do the trick. Electronic filing in the dockets might also be a possibility – but, again, the FCC hasn’t given any guidance yet. We’ll post a follow-up on this as developments warrant.

White Space Database Administrator Sweepstakes - Everybody's A Winner! (Except Maybe Affected Spectrum Users)

Nine companies will compete while sharing responsibilities and data.

You know those T-ball games for very young children where everyone is declared a winner and everyone takes home a trophy?

Keep that in mind for a few minutes.

The FCC, as our readers know by now, has authorized wireless TV Band Devices (TVBDs) that will operate in the “white spaces” on the TV frequency map – i.e., on TV channels that have no local TV station. Proponents, who like to call these devices “Wi-Fi on steroids,” claim they will boost the availability of wireless services with extended range, fewer dead spots, and improved speeds, promote rural broadband, aid education and medicine, and further spectrum efficiency. And create jobs. And also clear up that annoying rash.

As a condition of operation, the millions of expected TVBDs will have to avoid causing interference to active TV stations, the many wireless microphones that share the TV band, and certain TV reception sites. To do this, most will consult a complex and changing database that indicates where TVBDs can safely operate. The existence of a database in turn presupposes one or more “database administrators.” Last November, the FCC invited interested parties to submit applications for that role.

Nine companies responded. Some, like Google and Comsearch, have enormous expertise in constructing and maintaining large databases. The qualifications of some others are less obvious.

The FCC made its choice by not making a choice: It approved all nine applicants as database administrators, with the expectation they will compete among themselves for business.

This inclusive non-decision may reflect the FCC’s often-expressed distaste for “picking winners and losers.” Or it might follow from the FCC’s having neglected to state, at the outset, the criteria it would use for selection, an omission that leaves it vulnerable to challenge from the losers. This problem does not arise, of course, if there are no losers.

One applicant and a wireless microphone coalition challenged the impartiality of some other applicants. The FCC responded with a stern injunction against the administrators engaging in anti-competitive practices, and a promise of careful oversight.

Here at CommLawBlog, we have two concerns.

The FCC could have decided to manage the database itself. It certainly knows how; it keeps close track of millions of licenses. The FCC opted instead to farm out the work. With one or two administrators, that might have been a labor-saving move. But riding herd on nine of them, some inexperienced, each working with a database built to a different design, might turn out to be more work for the FCC than just doing the job on its own.

The other problem relates to data quality. Each administrator will keep its own database, but all nine must reflect the same underlying reality. Some of the data are slow-moving and should be easy to maintain – TV station contours, for example, and locations of protected TV receive sites, such as cable TV headends and TV translators. Potentially more troublesome, though, will be wireless microphone users’ frequent and changing registrations as they sign up for short-term interference protection at sporting events, political events, concerts, etc. These data will be volatile.

Suppose NBC, say, as part of its planning to cover an event, logs on to its preferred database administrator and registers a few dozen wireless microphones by date, time, place, and TV channel number. That information must be made available to every TVBD in the vicinity of the event, through every database administrator. Accordingly, the administrator receiving the registration must quickly and accurately disseminate it to the other eight, in a form that allows easy incorporation into their own, differently-designed databases. This kind of coordination is hard enough among two or three parties. We wonder whether nine can bring it off reliably.

And those nine will be competitors after the same business. It may become tempting for some to try making the others look bad by feeding them bad (or late) information. Even greater will be the temptation to cut costs by using ill-trained and badly supervised staff. Just as the hygiene of a shared kitchen quickly sinks to the level of the sloppiest person using it, so will the quality of the shared data reflect the least careful administrator.  (Users may appreciate the lower cost . . . at least until they realize that you do, in fact, get what you pay for.) 

To say, “You’re all winners!” is fine for T-ball. But maintaining a large and critical database takes real skill and a large measure of dedication. We may all come to wish the FCC had exercised greater adult authority in making its choices.