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CTIA, Public Safety Groups Urge FCC Action on 'Harmful' Auxiliary Devices

in Wireless by

WASHINGTON, February 24, 2009 – A trade association representing major U.S. wireless service providers on Monday sought to bar the sale or operation of low power wireless devices in the 700 Megahertz (MHz) band being vacated by analog television stations.

Joining with public safety advocacy groups on Monday, CTIA – The Wireless Association asked the Federal Communications Commission to protect the 700 MHz band from interference by “auxiliary” devices – a category that includes many commercially available wireless microphones and other devices that do not require a license to operate.

In the transition to digital television, currently set by Congress for June 12, 2009, the television stations from channels 52 to 69 will vacate their current allotments, and make use of digital allotments at lower frequencies. The vacated spectrum has already been auctioned for other wireless services.

Verizon and AT&T were among the big winners in the auction, in 2007, each paying billions for spectrum on which they plan to deploy next-generation wireless broadband service after the DTV transition.

The auction of the so-called “D Block” – which had been reserved for a public-private partnership to operate a nationwide public safety network – was unsuccessful in attracting a bidder willing to pay the $1.3 billion “reserve price” set by the FCC. That spectrum will be reauctioned.

CTIA joined with the National Emergency Number Association, the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials and the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council in writing to Acting FCC chairman Michael Copps to protest interference by the “auxiliary” devices.

Long-standing FCC rules allow so-called unlicensed use of spectrum as long as devices do not emit “harmful interference,” and absorb any interference they might encounter.

In their letter, the groups tell Copps that the devices are now “a growing public safety issue” that should be brought to his attention. Possible interference from auxiliary devices “threatens to prevent licensees from realizing the benefits to public safety that the 700 MHz band promises,” the groups write.

“It is of critical importance that low-power auxiliary devices do not cause harmful interference to critical communications – and the commercial communications that enable ordinary Americans to reach public safety in their moments of need,” they said.

Previously an Assistant Editor at Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily, Andrew served as Reporter and Deputy Editor for BroadbandBreakfast.com until April 2010. Andrew helped produce and interview telecom and tech policy newsmakers for FastCompany.tv’s 2008 “Washington Week,” and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Communicators” series. His writing has also appeared in Linux Journal.

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