Microsoft's Gates argue in favor of white spaces access to FCC

Still very much the chairman of Microsoft, Bill Gates is expected to try to convince an FCC commissioner to help quell an NAB proposal that would push back a vote on "freeing the white spaces" of the wireless spectrum.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and another high-ranking Microsoft official plan to call FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell later today to help sway the commission away from an demand by TV industry to delay its decision on the controversial "white spaces," BetaNews has learned.

As previously reported in BetaNews, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) issued a blistering attack two weeks ago on FCC test results released in connection with a proposal from the Google- and Microsoft-led Wireless Industry Association (WIA). The NAB asked the FCC to delay a vote scheduled for November 4 to allow for a period of public comment on the WIA's plan to open up the "white spaces" around existing licensed spectrum for free public access.

In a teleconference today, Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer, told reporters that he has already spoken with FCC Commissioner Jonatahn Adelstein to present Microsoft's views, and that he'll talk with Commission Chair Kevin Martin later today.

Mundie said that then, in conjunction with Gates, he plans to call Comm. McDowell later this afternoon.

On Thursday of last week, eight US legislators sent a letter to the FCC urging their support for the period of public comment requested by the NAB.

Mundie also responded in today's teleconference to accusations from the NAB that the FCC's own test results show mobile devices operating in the white spaces would interfere with wireless microphones and other broadcasting equipment in licensed bandwidth.

As previously reported, in demanding a delay in the FCC's vote, the NAB focused on problems experienced with "automatic sensing" technology from a Microsoft partner, while ignoring the results of a later test of Google's Android technology buttrressed with geolocation technology from Motorola.

Mundie argued that the problems associated with the equipment from the Microsoft partner revolved only around power supplies, which weren't "sized correctly" at the outset because four years of field trials were not anticipated.

The radios did sense what they were "supposed to sense," according to Mundie, who suggested that the radios would have sensed wireless microphones in the test -- as well as the TV station they did pick up -- if the TV station and wireless mikes hadn't been incorrectly operating in the same channel.

Mundie also questioned how anyone could complain that the white spaces proposal hasn't allowed for "due process," given the lengthy "duration of the tests." He maintained, as well, that FCC's white spaces decision is among the few in FCC history involving test equipment brought forward by manufacturers in advance of FCC approval.

Microsoft plans to support white channel devices in its software in much the same way as Wi-Fi today, but the company sees particular advantages to the propagation characteristics of white space spectrum for rural connectivity, in the US as well as emerging nations, according to the Microsoft researcher.

Microsoft, he said, is backing a "bimodal approach" to the white spaces, in which automatic sensing would be used by itself under low-power situations, but in conjunction with geolocation technology under high-power conditions.

Geolocation would involve a queriable database, to be "freely replicated by anyone," which would report on the existence of any TV stations operating in spectrum adjacent to the white spaces, Mundie said today.

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