*FCC Moves on 700MHz Analog Spectrum*

FCC Ponders How To Fill Up 'White Spaces'

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC </search/?query=FCC>) today unanimously took several first-step actions, including the partial grant of a Qualcomm petition, to start considering new broadband, video and other potential uses of the 700 MHz analog RF bands being freed by the U.S. broadcasters' digital-television (DTV) transition in February 2009.

The main items, based on a an existing proceeding, surround the possibility of licensed, unlicensed or hybrid arrangements for systems, services and personal devices to leverage what are known as "white spaces" channels (blank intervals) that are under-utilized by American TV broadcasters today. The moves include a First Report and Order setting up some interim rules and regulations on white-space usage parameters as well as a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) to thrash out technical requirements and other details that might be implemented on a permanent basis.

All told, the Order and the FNPRM envision fixed low-power systems and services in the 700 MHz band operating at timeframes or at locations where TV broadcasters as well as public-safety communications authorities, in several instances, aren't using the white-space channels. Also to be excluded from consideration in the proposed scheme are some specific white-space channels currently used by U.S. radio-astronomy and medical-communications activities.

In the regulatory process, the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology wonders whether the low-power offerings could co-habit with virtually all the white-space channels. The FCC commissioners and staff also would like to permit as wide a variety of personal portable-communications devices in the permissible mix as possible, but the regulator needs far more input on spectrum sensing, dynamic frequency selection plus other non-interference methods and technologies before making such a determination.

In the Qualcomm matter, the FCC denied the company's request for a broad declaratory ruling that would allow live video streams and clip-casting (store and play) across the board in main DTV transition-freed 700 MHz spectrum, which will be auctioned off - and a streamlined applications process for such applications. Nevertheless, the FCC commissioners and staff are enthusiastic about the prospect of such services from Qualcomm and potentially many others, so the company's request was, in part, granted.

The so-called partial relief will allow Qualcomm to test and demonstrate subscriber video services in order to measure radio field strength characteristics, technical quality levels and predictable interference with existing 700 MHz broadcaster operations and minimal disruption to TV viewers. The decision was limited at this time to Qualcomm but there are additional petitions and comments -- as well as the FCC's own leanings -- that suggest a wider initiative is possible in anticipation of the DTV transition. The regulator regarded its decision as a measured approach toward encouraging 700 MHz innovations and a compromise to balance its obligations that protect existing TV broadcast licensees and the viewers.

The FCC also started a Notice of Inquiry to collection opinions and data for its 13th annual report to the U.S. Congress </search/?query=Congress> on the status of competition in the video-programming- delivery market. This assessment traditionally involves ownership, cost and content issues as well as the likes of cable-TV, direct broadcast satellite and over-the-air broadcasting, etc.; however, such newcomer and rapidly approaching elements as mobile wireless video, Internet Protocol TV, broadband penetration, telco entry into the business, streamlined video franchising and DTV all are expected to be increasing factors in this year's FCC research effort and suggestions to federal lawmakers.

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