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A white space device (WSD) is a broadband device used to detect unused TV spectrum channels that do not have exclusive broadcast license requirements, such as ultra high frequency (UHF) (300–3000 MHz) and very high frequency (VHF) (30-300 MHz). In November 2008, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) formally approved and certified WSD use of these types of channels.
The FCC's WSD approval in 2008 was the first step toward facilitating the use of unlicensed channels in more than 20 years. The two WSD categories formally certified by the FCC are as follows:
In June 2009, the FCC approved both devices to use the TV spectrum restricted to 54–698 MHz. Prior to this date, the TV spectrum was 54-806 MHz. The FCC's 2009 approval required that all fully-powered TV stations switch from analog to digital transmission and remain within the 54-698 MHz range. The FCC planned to use the November 2008-June 2009 period to test WSD technology and ensure no TV broadcast interference.
White Spaces Coalition (WSC) members (including Microsoft, Motorola, Google and Philips Global) submitted WSDs to the FCC and planned to begin offering consumer broadband services near the end of the testing period, which coincided with the original February 2009 deadline for the smaller TV spectrum range.
In September 2010, the FCC published a Memorandum Opinion and Order outlining final WSD rules for use by unlicensed wireless devices, which greatly facilitated white space technology by removing mandatory sensing requirements. However, according to these rules, Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.1) is not an authorized user of the new TV spectrum (54–698 MHz).