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FCC issues new wireless/white space rules.

On August 6, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released new rules concerning wireless microphones, white space devices and television broadcast bands. Following the FCC’s upcoming incentive auction, there may be fewer white space frequencies in the television band for use by such devices. This new Report and Order (FCC 15-99) modernizes the Commission’s Part 15 rules to, according to the FCC, “accommodate growing demand for and encourage innovation in unlicensed use” by “allow[ing] for more robust unlicensed use and…promot[ing] spectral efficiency in the 600MHz band.”

Permits Unlicensed Use

The new rules permit unlicensed fixed and personal/portable white space devices, as well as unlicensed wireless microphones, to use channels in the 600MHz and television broadcast bands. This includes unused TV channels, also known as the “white space” spectrum. However, television and other licensed services will continue to be protected from harmful interference.

According to the FCC, these new rules will:

  • permit more robust and efficient operation of fixed and personal/portable white space devices in television broadcast bands without increasing the risk of interference to broadcast services;
  • provide technical parameters for fixed and personal/portable white space devices to operate in the 600MHz band, including the duplex gap and guard bands, and channel 37 on a shared non-interference basis with medical telemetry and radio astronomy;
  • permit sharing of spectrum between white space devices and unlicensed microphones in the 600MHz band;
  • expand the location and frequency information in the white space databases and update database procedures, and
  • adopt transition periods for the certification, manufacturing and marketing of white space devices and wireless microphones that comply with new rules.

‘Fulfills Its Commitment’

The FCC asserts that, “With this action, the FCC fulfills its commitment in the Incentive Auction Report and Order to provide nationwide access to spectrum for unlicensed use in the 600MHz band.”

In a related action, the FCC also adopted new rules (FCC 15-100) to “address the long-term needs of wireless microphone users by providing for continued access to the 600MHz band and expanding access to other bands.” These new rules were also issued in anticipation of the upcoming spectrum auction and the anticipated reduction in available white space frequencies.

According to the FCC, these new rules will:

  • provide more opportunities for licensed use in the remaining TV bands by allowing greater use of the VHF channels and permitting co-channel operations inside DTV contours without coordination if TV signals fall below specified threshold;
  • expand eligibility for licensed use of the 4MHz portion of the 600MHz duplex gap to include all licensed users in the TV bands (broadcasters, cable programming networks, movie studios and operators at major sporting/concerts/theater venues), and
  • provide new opportunities for these licensed wireless microphones to operate on a secondary basis in three additional spectrum bands, consistent with the Commission’s spectrum management goals: (1) access to significantly more spectrum in the 900MHz band; (2) access to a portion of the 1435-1525MHz band at specified times and places, subject to coordination requirements that protect critical aeronautical mobile telemetry, and (3) access to portions of the 6875-7125MHz band.
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