Microsoft sent FCC defective wireless prototype
Wants a do-over
Why did the FCC give a failing grade to a controversial Microsoft prototype that sends high-speed Internet signals over unused television airwaves? It was broken. At least, that's the word from Microsoft.
As we reported earlier today, on July 31 the Federal Communications Commission released an 85-page report saying that Microsoft's "white space" prototype was unable to detect unused TV spectrum and that it interfered with other wireless devices. But after discussions with the commission, Redmond is now claiming that the device tested by the FCC was defective. As if we didn't already know that.
"During meetings with FCC engineers last week, Microsoft determined that the prototype device tested by the Commission was working improperly and an internal component was broken. This accounted for the FCC's aberrant test results," said Jack Krumholtz, Microsoft's managing director for federal government affairs. "We remain confident that the unused channels in the television spectrum band can successfully be used without harmful interference to incumbent licensees such as television and wireless microphone services."
When contacted, the FCC declined to comment - that's typically way it works with ongoing investigations like this one - but Chairman Kevin Martin is on record as saying the commission hopes to find a way of transmitting Internet service over "white spaces," portions of television spectrum that go unused by local TV channels. Just this afternoon, the commission's office of engineering announced that it plans to discuss the matter with "interested parties" on Thursday. Microsoft's prototype is also backed by big-name tech companies like Dell, Google, Intel, and Philips. (Yes, Microsoft and Google are working together.)
Meanwhile, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the trade association that serves more than 8,300 local radio and television stations, was more than happy to toss us a comment. Spokesman Dennis Wharton believes that Microsoft's prototype - broken or not - deserves no airtime. "The FCC performed rigorous tests on the Microsoft devices," he said, "and we are confident that its finding that these devices cause interference to television reception is accurate."
By definition, Redmond's prototype would use local television spectrum that stations do not use, but the NAB still sees Microsoft as a gun-wielding egocentric: "Nearly a decade ago, broadcasters and government launched the historic public-private partnership that is bringing the next generation of television to American consumers. Now that the [digital TV] transition is near completion, up steps Microsoft and its allies to jeopardize all that has been accomplished. By continuing to press its self-serving agenda, Microsoft is playing Russian Roulette with America's access to interference free TV reception."
As you might have noticed from Google's efforts to convince the FCC that it should give consumers open access to the 700-MHz band, the portion of the wireless band no longer used by TV stations who've made the switch to digital transmission, the big web players hope to establish a means of broadband access that's outside the control of big telcos like AT&T and Verizon. If approved by the FCC, mobile devices such as the Microsoft white-space prototype would enable consumers to connect directly to the net - without an OK from wireless carriers. That's pretty much what the commission has allowed with a portion of the 700-MHz band, but white spaces represent a much larger chunk of bandwidth.
Evidently, Microsoft had submitted two white-space prototypes to the FCC for testing: the one that failed the FCC's test, and a "spare" that was never used. According to Microsoft, once they got the spare back into their own lab, it worked pretty well - but it seems that certain functions needed a little tweaking.
"Microsoft's testing of the spare prototype device it had previously submitted to the FCC revealed that in the FCC's laboratory, the spare device was able to detect digital television signals at the power level that we had stated," Krumholtz said. "And with some adjustments, this device detected wireless microphone signals as we had indicated that it would."
The company also wants it known that one of its partners, Philips, submitted a second white-space prototype and that it worked just fine. Of course, Microsoft failing a test is bigger news that Philips passing one. ®
BSD and your supprised
Philips been electrics business years. Philips make media equtimet which must no fail, must not crash etc
Microsoft sells there software with warnings that must NOT be use in mission critical environmental.
So it to a European business to do, go figger.
Dangerous and probably stupid system
The whole idea is that "if I cant hear anything, then it is OK to shout as loud as I want", and as some have already commented, that is a real problem in practice.
Not only will these devices have much smaller antennas than typical TV systems, but they could be in an area (e.g. street level) where they can't get a signal, but another antenna (e.g. roof level) can. In this case they trash a perfectly good working system without knowing it.
As pointed out before, and the same applies to UWB (which will trash lots of the lower microwave band to any sensitive space related work), but the government of the USA (and elsewhere) care not. All that matters is money, and the likes of Intel and Microsoft can usually do as they please. By time the complaints are heard it is too late.
If such a system is deployed and causes problems, how do you recal it? The users are unlikely to know or care about the concequenses.
Have they made it mandatory to receive an authenticated "frequency range OK" messages at regular intervals from some central management unit to make sure they go silent if there is a problem? I doubt it...
MS quality specifications
How does this device know that a frequency is clear? All TV stations outside the range of Microsoft's tiny antenna get trampled?
Well, it's a good thing MS isn't an evil monopoly that crushes all competition and then locks people into paying for low quality products. I might be worried that this new wireless device is a scam to destroy over-the-air broadcasts and force MS IPTV as a new standard.