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Motorola shows up Microsoft in white space tests

On the heels of Google’s recent offer to help ‘white spaces’ broadband get off the ground, this weekend saw a rush of activity that leaves the future of this controversial technology very much in question.

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Late last week, the FCC withdrew from testing a prototype device from Microsoft, not the first Microsoft device to fail in the test environment.

"Although this is disappointing to us, we have every confidence that the FCC has many avenues available to finish gathering the information it needs to develop final 'white spaces rules' and allow a variety of services and devices to effectively use the white spaces," Microsoft said in a statement.

Microsoft is part of the White Spaces Coalition along with Google, Dell, HP, Intel, Philips, Earthlink, and Samsung. The group is pushing to use the “between-channel” spectrum to offer data services.

The FCC said in January it would test white-space devices – not only from Microsoft but also Adaptrum and Motorola – for three months, issuing a report six weeks after testing ended.

Stepping into the void left by Microsoft’s high-profile failure, Motorola made a filing with the FCC on Friday detailing how the use of geolocation technology could prevent interference and ensure the successful delivery of data services over the available spectrum.

According to Motorola, a geolocation database would help network operators determine available channels, even within a challenged RF environment. Other provisions -- such as using sensing technology to facilitate channel access and sharing and support for priority beacons – could also help make the technology work in the real world, Motorola said in its filing.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which is very much opposed to using TV spectrum for anything but digital TV signals, called Microsoft’s failure the latest proof that white-space broadband was doomed to failure. In particular, the NAB is concerned that data services would interfere with over-the-air, digital TV broadcasts.

"In baseball, it's three strikes and you're out," NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton said in a statement. "How many strikes does Microsoft get? If they can't get the device to work in the lab, how are they going to get it to work in the real world?"
Complicating issues further, the CTIA – on the eve of their trade show this week in Las Vegas – urged the FCC to auction off the TV white-space spectrum. While saying, “TV white space is too valuable to lie fallow,” the filing nonetheless urged the FCC to “auction the majority of this spectrum for prompt licensed use.”
Such an auction would seemingly benefit incumbent carriers, who have the cash, network experience and existing infrastructure to make winning bids for the spectrum, much as they did for the recently-auctioned 700 Mhz spectrum offer.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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