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6/27/2008
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NFL, ESPN Offer Stadiums For 'White Space' Spectrum Tests

The football league suggested the FCC could use the Baltimore Ravens' M&T Bank Stadium and the Washington Redskins' FedExField in Landover, Md.

What could be a better place than a National Football League game to test whether the coveted "white space" spectrum will function in the midst of hundreds, even thousands, of other devices using pieces of wireless spectrum?

We may find out. The NFL and broadcaster ESPN proposed to the FCC this week that two stadiums be used as to test white space devices "under real-world conditions.

"We believe it is essential that field testing studies reflect actual, true-to-life conditions, including testing of wireless microphones and other wireless audio equipment used at these games," the NFL and ESPN said in a FCC filing Thursday. "We are offering our assistance, expertise, access to facilities and equipment and other resources so that the commission, including the Office of Engineering and Technology, can conduct field testing of the potential impact of WSDs (White Spaces Devices) on wireless microphone operations during a live sporting event."

The NFL suggested that the FCC could use the Baltimore Ravens M&T Bank Stadium and the Washington Redskins FedExField in Landover, Md., for the tests.

"White space" refers to the portion of the spectrum that exists alongside the 700-MHz bands that were auctioned off primarily to cell phone services providers earlier this year in preparation for the wholesale move of analog television out of the 700-MHz space. Several companies including Google, Microsoft, Motorola, and Phillips have been testing white space devices, but the devices haven't been proven in real world situations.

In this year's Super Bowl XLII, some 10,000 wireless devices operating on 2,000 radio frequencies were expected to be in use during the game. The NFL employed a 45-person "frequency coordination" team to regulate wireless traffic during the game.

The NFL and ESPN, along with other organizations like MTV Networks, are concerned that white space interference will conflict with their use of wireless technologies to deliver broadcasts of events.

"Wireless microphones are critical to NFL games themselves as well as ESPN's taping and broadcast of the games," said Ken Kerschbaumer in an e-mail. "ESPN, for example, uses wireless microphones for the commentators, on-field reporters and to gather sounds from the game." Kerschbaumer, executive director of the Sports Video Group, made his comments on behalf of the NFL and ESPN.

Kerschbaumer, who noted that Sports Video Group supports many professional sports teams in video, audio and broadband technologies, said his organization is offering its expertise, facilities, and equipment for use by the FCC.

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