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.