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FCC Seeing the Need for Competition and Having Multiple Database Administrators…

August 27, 2011

By John Eggerton — Broadcasting & Cable, 8/5/2011 10:51:26 AM

The FCC has authorized Microsoft to be a white spaces database administrator, despite its late filing and concerns raised by broadcasters opposed to the designation.

The FCC had already approved nine other entities, including Google Spectrum Bridge and Neustar, to oversee the databases, which unlicensed devices will have to check in with periodically to insure they are not using frequencies that will interfere with TV stations operating in the same frequency band. Why so many administrators? The FCC decided to let “marketplace” forces shape the development of the database service, which will ultimately be overseen by the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology [OET].”

The FCC conceded that there could be some issues with so many cooks. “While the operation of multiple database administrators may present some coordination challenges,” it said when it approved the initial nine, “we find it is in the public interest to have multiple parties developing business models for this new mechanism,” it said, both now and as a test-bed for future sharing. “The value of this exercise extends beyond databases for the TV bands, as the Commission is also considering employing similar database approaches in other spectrum bands,” the commission said.

The commission decided one more wouldn’t hurt, although some broadcast engineers disagreed. Engineers for the Integrity of Broadcast Auxiliary Services (EIBASS) had argued against letting Microsoft into the group because it had filed late, that it did not include relay and translator stations among those it would protect, and that Microsoft’s test at the NAB convention raised some issues about its effectiveness.

Even though Microsoft did not ask to be included in that group until three months after the FCC had chosen the administrators, and well over a year since it had first asked for volunteers, the commission said there was nothing in the rules that prevented them from asking.

“We find that Microsoft has shown that it has the technical expertise to develop and operate a TV bands database.  Moreover, as explained below, none of the concerns raised by any of the commenters in the record before us causes us to conclude that Microsoft is not capable of meeting all the requirements placed on database administrators by the Commission’s rules,” said OET in granting the approval.

The FCC approved the sharing of the so-called “white spaces” (broadcasters called them “interference zones”) in the TV spectrum by unlicensed devices, like laptops and other devices using Microsoft software, so long as a database was set up to keep track of what frequencies were actually available.

Google and Microsoft were among the companies pushing the FCC hardest to open up the “white spaces,” while broadcasters pushed back over potential interference to their new DTV signals. The tension between broadcasters and Microsoft over the issue goes back years. For example, there were some problems with early testing of a Microsoft device back in 2008 that prompted a war of words between the company and broadcasters.

All the databases must undergo a 45-day test period before they can go live

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2 Comments
  1. A recent study was released on Sept 13th, 2011 finding significant economic and information advantages for telecommunications carriers and consumers from having multiple regional providers of Number Portability Administration Center (NPAC) services. Conducted by Dr. William Rogerson, Professor of Economics at Northwestern University and former Chief Economist of the Federal Communications Commission, the study evaluates how the upcoming NPAC service procurement could be organized to allow for multiple regional providers and the costs and benefits of doing so.

    “Planners should not discount the potential magnitude of the price-reducing effects of increased competition,” said Rogerson. “In defense procurement it has been found that dual sourcing generally lowers prices by 20 percent, even though dual sourcing sacrifices some economies of scale.” Costs of NPAC services are projected to reach $500 million annually by 2015.

    Telcordia Technologies has been a strong advocate for greater competition in NPAC services, including open, competitive bidding. “Introducing competition in number portability services through a properly run and structured procurement that results in multiple vendors can easily save industry and consumers over $100 million per year starting in 2015 when a new contract takes effect,” said Richard Jacowleff, President of Telcordia’s Interconnection Solutions group.

    Rogerson compared sole-source procurement designs to multiple-source procurement designs, including flexible procurement design. Sole-source procurement enables a provider reduce its costs of production to the extent that there are economies of scale and scope. A multiple-source procurement to select multiple regional vendors, however, would yield four significant benefits: performance and price benchmarking, increased innovation, back-up capabilities in the event of technical or financial failure, and increased competition in future NPAC and related procurements.

    That study can be found at http://www.telcordia.com/collateral/download/new-economic-study-npac.pdf

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  1. Certainly Seems That It Just Makes Good Common Sense to Have Multiple Local Number Portability Administrators (LNPA’s) in Today’s World « Jack E Brown – Telcom Professional

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