Technology & Science

U.S. broadcasters oppose move to free 'white space' airwaves

U.S. broadcasters have blasted the country's regulators for favouring a plan that could open up unused airwaves for wireless internet services.

U.S. broadcasters have blasted the country's regulators for favouring a plan that could open up unused airwaves for wireless internet services.

The National Association of Broadcasters on Friday criticized statements made Wednesday by Federal Communications chairman Kevin Martin in support of loosening up those airwaves, known as "white spaces."

The NAB said Martin's "upbeat" comments did not agree with the technical analysis done by the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology on whether devices using those white spaces would interfere with broadcast television signals.

"It would appear that the FCC is misinterpreting the actual data collected by their own engineers," NAB executive vice-president Dennis Wharton said in a statement. "Any reasonable analysis of the OET report would conclude that unlicensed devices that rely solely on spectrum sensing threaten the viability of clear television reception. Basing public policy on an imprecise Cliff Notes version of a 149-page report raises troubling questions."

The white spaces sit between broadcast television frequencies and are in the 150 megahertz to 700 megahertz range. A number of technology companies, including Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp., have argued that these unlicensed frequencies should be freed in order to allow more innovation in providing high-speed internet services and devices.

Broadcasters, cellphone companies and makers of wireless microphones have argued that devices operating in these bands could interfere with their own offerings.

The FCC report, however, conducted tests and found that interference was not an issue.

"At this juncture, we believe that the burden of 'proof of concept' has been met," the report said.

Martin said the FCC would vote on whether or not to free up the airwaves at its next meeting on Nov. 4.

The NAB wants the FCC to seek more public comment before going ahead with a vote.