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January 21, 2008

FCC Resumes Testing of Internet Devices

By Anshu Shrivastava, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Federal Communications Commission (FCC (News - Alert)) has said on Thursday that they will try again to test prototypes on January 24 for transmitting high-speed Internet service over unused television airwaves.

FCC has said that the devices developed by Adaptrum Inc., Microsoft Corp., Motorola (News - Alert) Inc. and Philips Electronics North America Corp. will be tested in laboratory and real-world conditions.

The testing is expected to take three months, and FCC will issue a report about six weeks after the testing ends.

Last year, according to reports, a high-technology coalition which includes Microsoft, Philips, a division of Netherlands-based Royal Philips Electronics NV, Google Inc., Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel (News - Alert) Corp. and EarthLink Inc. submitted prototypes they said could transmit broadband Internet service over unlicensed and unused TV spectrum, known as “white spaces.”

In July, the FCC had given a failing grade to Microsoft’s (News - Alert) prototypes, stating the devices did not reliably detect and avoid TV programming signals and could have caused interference.

However, AP reports that, later the FCC had said that one of the Microsoft-built devices were broken, accounting for the failed results. Also, the duplicate Microsoft device sent to the FCC was never tested.

The coalition states that using white spaces could make Internet service more accessible and affordable, especially in rural areas. However, television broadcasters and the wireless microphone industry believe that such devices could interfere with programming.

If the tests are successful this time and the devices are approved, the coalition is planning to introduce commercial devices for sale after the digital television transition in February 2009.

“It seems to me this timeline is reasonable and could lead to a final decision by the end of the June,” said Scott Blake Harris, who represents the coalition.

Microsoft has submitted another prototype device, according to the FCC. Three other companies, Adaptrum, Motorola and Philips, have also submitted devices. Google had submitted its own white space testing results to the FCC in December, though FCC has not named it as one of the companies submitting a device for testing.


Anshu Shrivastava is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To see more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

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