Feature Article

September 23, 2010

Thursday at the Commission: Milestones and Millstones

The FCC will have a public meeting on the Thursday that has the subject of white space as the first part of the agenda. It should be an interesting vote. Google is probably the biggest victor in this discussion since the White Space initiative led to a race for a spectrum mapping database which Google has enabled.

Originally the FCC had requirements that fixed devices use both geolocation AND spectrum sensing to safely transmit in the white space spectrum. The rumors are that geolocation databases will be maintained but spectrum sensing will not be needed. The databases that have existed are spotty (I guess that’s a pun) and many companies have been trying to deliver a more complete picture. However, the cost of this database maybe something that is paid for by the government in the end. I would think this would fall under the NTIA’s jurisdiction.

Regardless, the use of the database without spectrum sensing is a boon. This means that White Space solutions will be cheaper to build. It also suggests that the other rules about how systems are placed will also be relaxed since interference can be avoided based on the mapping.

FiberTower has advocated that some of the white space spectrum be allocated for wireless backhaul. This is unlikely to occur directly, but we should expect that many companies will use the spectrum in that manner. In theory, white space could be an alternate loop method for femtocells.

One interesting aspect of the whitespace discussion will be the issue of wireless microphones.    It looks like the commission may allocate specific spectrum for these microphones (like the Shure microphones we use at the conferences) and at the same time reduce the radius of the protection zone.

The second item on the agenda is an expansion of the E Rate USF capability for libraries and schools. As you will recall a chunk of stimulus money was made available through the NTIA and RUS for capital to deliver broadband services. However, the reality is that maintaining these systems can be just as costly. We should expect that the commission approves the use of USF for these types of services.

Cheaper devices and public use solutions sound great. However, the next two items on the agenda are about emergency services. Previously the commission’s requirements for VoIP 911 changed the industry and reduced competitive services.    Now the commission is looking to improve accuracy on 911 and dispatch to specific locations and PSAPs.

I find some irony in the fact that mapping in the first half of the day will reduce the cost and in the later half will increase the cost.

However, the real issue is that 911 as a service is antiquated. We live on the Internet. We don’t want the game’s call for medic to result in an emergency dispatch, but we would hope a text message or email could be sent. For a funny skit pointing this out please look at http://bit.ly/dnB6k4.


Carl Ford is a partner at Crossfire Media.

Edited by Patrick Barnard


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