White Space FAQs

What are White Spaces?

White Spaces were originally defined as deliberately unused areas of the UHF spectrum on either side of  a licensed “Primary” station (TV, Radio, Community TV), as guard bands to protect the stations from interference.  The term now refers to any unused space in the UHF spectrum.

What is a White Space Device?

A White Space Device (WSD) or TV Band Device (TVBD) is a device (anything from Wireless Broadband, to machine-to-machine communications, with new uses being developed rapidly by Microsoft, Intel, Motorola, etc.) that operates by transmitting in unused areas of the UHF-TV spectrum.  The devices are required by law to be frequency agile, so as not to interfere with “Primary” or other licensed users of the spectrum, including Part 74 stations (us).  At first, the manufacturers of WSDs claimed that the devices would be capable of sensing licensed users and immediately switch operating frequencies in order to not interfere with them.  The devices proved incapable of  adequate sensing, so a Dynamic White Space Database was proposed, where licensed stations would register their areas and hours of operation, so that a WSD could check in to the database regularly, so as not to cause interference.

There are three classes of WSDs:

Permanent WSDs – required to check in with the Dynamic Database every 24 hours.

These are devices permanently installed at a brick and mortar location.

Portable WSDs – required to check in with the Dynamic Database once an hour.

These are devices that can be moved from one location to another.

Mobile WSDs – required to check in with the Dynamic Database once a minute.

These are devices in cars or hand-held, to operate anywhere.

What is the White Space Dynamic Database?

In order to accommodate the perceived need for greater areas of  the EMS (electro-magnetic spectrum) for the operation of broadband and other related services, the FCC began to relocate the frequencies of established, licensed, Primary stations in the VHF and UHF bands, in order to “free up” available real estate for use by the private sector.  The entire VHF spectrum, and half of the UHF spectrum were removed from public use.   This reflected a fundamental change in the FCC, from protecting the “Public Interest” in the airwaves, and being the “traffic controller”, to becoming a high-profit center facilitating the communications industry.  Instead of granting organizations a license to operate in the VHF and UHF bands, serving the public interest, the FCC now leases the newly available areas of the spectrum to companies and brokers in the communications industry.  The FCC is now the second largest income generating organization in the United States Federal Government, second only to the Internal Revenue Service.  The communications industry was not satisfied with the size of the new real estate made available to them, and proclaimed there was going to be a huge “Spectrum Crunch” due to the rapidly increasing wireless and cell-phone needs of the market.  (This “Spectrum Crunch” has not been substantiated, and the notion is currently under attack by both the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and by a very large group of independent broadcast engineers.)  By intensive lobbying of FCC Comissioners,  a plan to use the currently unused areas between the reallocated Primary stations, in what’s left of the UHF spectrum, has been put in place. The FCC has mandated that private use of the UHF band must not interfere with Primary and other licensed users.  The communications industry proposed the creation of a dynamic database that would allow devices using the available UHF spectrum to know what frequencies were being used by licensed operators, so as not to cause interference.  Ten companies have applied to the FCC to create and administer dynamic databases, and the FCC will allow WSDs to go on-line when the companies have properly tested their ability to function, and their ability to share resources (ie., station data entered in one database be immediately shared across all of the databases.)  As of April 1, 2012, two of the ten companies have successfully completed public testing of their databases, including the interfaces used by Part 74 licensees to enter locations and hours of use.  Testing of the ability of the databases to immediately share data has not yet occurred.

When will the Dynamic Databases go on-line?

They will go online when testing is complete.

How often will I have to register my location and hours of operation on a database, and how do I do that?

The two database companies that have run their required tests (Spectrum Bridge and Telcordia) provided quite different on-line user interfaces.  (Must be done on the internet.) Many of the licensees in the “FCC Project” participated in these tests, and gave the database companies feedback to improve the usability of the interfaces.  The “FCC Project” encourages licensed users to participate in these tests, as both companies immediately improved their interfaces based on the feedback.  (Remember – These companies have very little knowledge as to how we operate – if we don’t participate in the tests, they never will!)  The interfaces require one to specify your call sign, the channels you will be using, the geographic coordinates, the hours of use, and the regularity of use.  Both interfaces tested also made provisions for unlicensed users.  Both companies also plan to allow regular users to create “User Profiles” to facilitate registration.  The “FCC Project” is pushing for PDA and cell-phone apps for registration.

Register your home, your company location, or the place where you test and maintain your wireless equipment once, as a permanent, 24/7, location.  (If you are like me, testing and repairs often occur at 3:00am!)

If you are working at a studio, register that location as a M-F location with the hours used set from earliest expected call to worst Fraturday.

Location work….  Register at least 24 hours before hitting the location.

ENG / EPK work…. Bit of a dilemma here, as this work can be called for on a moments notice,  still working with the companies as to how to handle this.


An example of  a registration user interface.

Spectrum Bridge: