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White Spaces Test "Rigged," Says Google Co-Founder Page 323

Posted by timothy
from the say-it-ain't-so dept.
Davide Marney writes "As reported by the Washington Post, Google co-founder Larry Page claims that an FCC field test of white space wireless devices was 'rigged' to make the test device fail to detect wireless microphone broadcasts. A Google spokesman explained later that testers had hidden the wireless microphones within the same frequency as local television stations, preventing the test device from detecting them."
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White Spaces Test "Rigged," Says Google Co-Founder Page

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  • fantastic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by j0nb0y (107699) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `003yobnoj'> on Thursday September 25, 2008 @07:44PM (#25159495) Homepage

    It's great to hear debate on this issue... but this is a scientific issue, and we should test it with science. Google is a big company. They should conduct their own experiment and publish the results if they want to refute the FCC test.

    • Re:fantastic (Score:5, Informative)

      by LostCluster (625375) * on Thursday September 25, 2008 @08:06PM (#25159679)

      It's hard to test these things without the FCC's help... you need to set up a scale model of TV station signals, and that requires an FCC license to do.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ScrewMaster (602015)

        It's hard to test these things without the FCC's help... you need to set up a scale model of TV station signals, and that requires an FCC license to do.

        Only within the Continental U.S., Hawaii and some U.S. territories. Let Google go offshore somewhere and set up a test facility. I doubt Mexico would care very much (probably just grease a few palms.) Or just run their tests inside a giant shielded area ... maybe an aircraft hangar.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          Only within the Continental U.S., Hawaii and some U.S. territories. Let Google go offshore somewhere and set up a test facility. I doubt Mexico would care very much (probably just grease a few palms.)

          I'm not Mexican but work here. It would be equally easy to grease the correct hands in gringoland so don't think you are in the land of perfect innocence!

          • by gd2shoe (747932)

            ... equally easy to grease the correct hands in gringoland...

            Not from what I've heard. I've never been to Mexico, but is it true that traffic cops expect you to bribe them?

  • ... because for someone who hasn't been following this in detail, TFA doesn't even make clear what exactly Page is claiming happened.

    • by LostCluster (625375) * on Thursday September 25, 2008 @08:04PM (#25159667)

      Here's the summary:

      There's unused radio spectrum (called "white space") between the TV channels that are designed to give the stations protection. Google (and others) claim that small radio devices can transmit on those frequencies and not harm the TV signals, TV stations of course fearful of anything that might cost them viewers disputed that.

      So the FCC set up a field test of a Google device and other devices to see if everything work right. The result of that test was a "fail" for Google's side... but the news is that Google is claiming the wireless microphone channel being tested equated to a local TV broadcasting channel, and therefore was unfair.

      • It serves a very useful purpose in some receiver designs.

        The white space between channels can be used by auto-tuning software to determine where the channels are by detecting energy levels. Fill the white space up and this sort of auto-tuning cannot work. Modern digital tuners probably don't need this, but older, cheaper designs probably do.

        • Correction: Autotuning software or hardware. This can be implemented as a hardware-only feature that keeps tracking the station to correct for frequency changes as the receiver warms up etc.
        • Conveniently, within about a year, all tv stations will have to broadcast in digital, requiring new all-digital tuners. So it won't matter, as the older, cheaper designs wont work anymore anyway.

        • by inca34 (954872)
          Irrelevant for post the 2009 switch to all digital broadcasts.
        • I am not sure how things work in USA, but here in Europe for at LEAST the past 8 or 10 years, the TVs would tune based on recognition of the various aspects of analogue TV signaling (such as v-sync, etc) as these have a fairy constant "heartbeat" to say the least. Once a channel is locked in, then the tuner uses the Teletext circuitry to fine tune it, as well as Identify the actual channel, so its kept in the right order (BBC1 = 1, BBC2 = 2, ITV = 3, etc).

          Therefore the whitespace is not really needed for mo

      • I am still confused

        Where they trying to show that the Google device did not interfere with the microphone? But if it was at the same frequency as a local TV station, it would have not worked whether or not the Google device was on - the TV signal would have interfered.

        If, on the other hand, the Google device was designed to avoid populated spectrum, it would have avoided that frequency in any case, assuming this feature worked at all.

        So exactly what was being tested and what was the failure mode?

      • by dnoyeb (547705)

        How could that possibly be a mistake? How could the FCC not know that when it tested? Is this a new test or something?

      • by Fred_A (10934)

        Easy fix, put the channels on YouTube or remove them altogether. After all what are the chances that they are broadcasting anything remotely interesting ?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Sandbags (964742)

        White space is not defined as the small padding between documented frequencies, thogh a spall part of it exists there. White space are the UNUSED frequencies in many markets.

        You see, there are more than 40 TV broadcast chanels available, and a further 81 digital channels as well, but in any one market or area, typically no more than 10 are ever in use. There is some small bleed over from one market to another, so maybe 15-18 of the channels may have some signal detectable and thus needing to be avoides.

        Wi

  • Oh My! (Score:5, Funny)

    by arizwebfoot (1228544) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @07:57PM (#25159609)
    Oh the conspiracy of it all!

    Next they'll be rigging voting machines
    Oh wait . . .


    --
    Oh well, Bad Karma and all . . .
    • Re:Oh My! (Score:4, Funny)

      by Pahroza (24427) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @08:19PM (#25159801)

      McCain/Diebold - We can't lose!

      • by mcpkaaos (449561)

        McCain/Diebold - We can't lose!

        Even with Diebold on his side, I think McCain could figure out a way.

  • Disagree (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Trip Ericson (864747)

    I really, really don't like whitespace devices.

    Companies like Google claim it will allow internet access in rural areas; that's also what they've said about BPL and WiMax and we see that those are being deployed mostly in major cities. The difference is that this time, there's no gain in major cities. (This is so much like BPL it's amazing, able to stomp on everything that's supposed to be in the band, not really benefiting anyone who's supposed to be benefited by this, etc.)

    With digital TV coming, white

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Then how about a compromise?

      Since this is a pda, adding a GPS wouldnt be a bad idea, in fact I think it'd be a nice addition.

      With a GPS, one could check a database in which has a list of frequencies that are "off limits". Though, the bad side is the device will have a chance of interfering for the small amount of time in which the list is being downloaded. I cant see the list being larger than 20KB per 1 sq. km. , so perhaps 3 seconds of jamming potential.

      The only real work would be the creation of the DB (

    • Re:Disagree (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @09:06PM (#25160129) Homepage

      These devices can start transmitting and wipe out a digital signal, and then how are you going to know what's causing it? At least with analog you could look at the noise in the picture and get some idea of what's causing it.

      same way you did it then. use a reciever and walk around. Digital is not "magical" it's stil the same ANALOG Rf transmission carrying 1's and 0's instead of .5,1,1.5,6,9,about 2, kinda 4,.....

      so you use simple RDF techniques and find it. Really really simple and around here 9-13 year olds do it all the time.

      It's called "fox hunting" and they use a simple pocket scanner to find a hiddent transmitter that transmits only for 1 minute every 5-10 minutes.

      • What kind of receiver would you use for this, and how would an ordinary non-Slashdot-reading person use one?

        All I could tell with a portable receiver is that the digital signal is gone, there's nothing to indicate what's causing it. Not to mention portable DTV tuners are awful at receiving clean DTV, let alone anything else.

        • You use a directional antenna and just wave it around until the output changes. Useful for finding all kinds of stuff.

          • When the output is a black screen that says "No signal" because noise from the nearby White Space Device is wiping out everything, how does this procedure then work?

    • by inca34 (954872)
      I don't think you know what you're talking about. There will be orders of magnitude of difference between digital TV broadcasts and the wide band spectrum power levels. Your TV won't be able to tell the difference, hence the name "white space device."

      It's kind of funny that we're all fussed about this particular topic when my classmates and I more or less solved this problem from a system's level in an rf class for homework. The problem was similar though not exactly the same. Given the sensitivity of moder
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Trip Ericson (864747)

        So, the signal is not going to be able to impact TV signals, but will deliver high speed internet to rural areas at the same time? I live in a rural area, and let me tell you TV signals aren't usually strong in those areas. I haven't heard white space devices described as wireless routers (in which case I'd be inclined to believe you), I've heard them described as ISP wireless transmitters. My internet provider is a wireless ISP who operates on 900 MHz, I'm three miles from their tower, and when they sig

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 25, 2008 @08:08PM (#25159703)

    Summary for non-engineers:

    Google (among others) want to use the newly freed analog TV frequencies to provide long range wireless internet.

    Short range RF microphones i.e. wireless stage mics that aren't using IR currently operate in this area as well. current analog TV doesn't interfere, I'll spare details.

    Some claim the wireless internet system that has been devised will interfere with these microphones. Google group says they won't because the devices are capable of detecting a microphone transmitting and work around the issue (change freq).

    FCC setup a test, device failed to avoid microphones frequencies thus, knocking it out of commission and failing the test.

    Google chap claims the testers had the mic transmitting on a frequency used by the local TV channel and this transmitter was so strong that the system could not detect the microphone because it was effectively masked.

    Google chap says this was done on purpose.

    The end.

    • by NF6X (725054)

      That's a good summary for engineers, too. I'm an engineer, but I wasn't able to figure out what the complaint was about from TFA.

      Please mod parent up.

    • Are you sure that analog TV doesn't interfere? I thought it was standard practice with stage mics to find out what frequencies were operating in your area and try and stay clear of them when you set up the mics.
  • Google spokesman explained later that testers had hidden the wireless microphones within the same frequency as local television stations, preventing the test device from detecting them.

    Hey, can I get one of those? That might be fun to play with:

    "Hey there Lane, I know this is a little awkward, me being a cartoon and all, I was just wondering how you'd feel if I took out Beth." -- Bernard "Barney" Rubble

  • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @08:18PM (#25159793)

    What we're hearing about now is outrage over test results which have not yet been published. When they are, they will "show" that wireless Internet devices that Google is trying to get accepted by the FCC were unable to detect a wireless microphone. We've supposed to then believe that the wireless Internet device, having failed to detect the microphone when it checked that chunk of the spectrum, would then begin transmitting on that piece of spectrum, thereby disrupting the microphone. The sound bite is "device which fails to avoid interfering with wireless mic is bad and will not be allowed."

    It takes only a moment to see that it was a rigged test because the wireless Internet device did NOT interfere with the microphone, because it did successfully detect the local television station that was broadcasting on that frequency and therefore did not try to use it. Analog TV stations are some seriously high power broad spectrum noise. Any frequency-hopping wireless Internet device would be useless attempting to use the same frequency and would obviously move on to another part of the spectrum, thereby avoiding interfering with the TV station and any other device being masked by it. That part will be conveniently left out of the headlines. The fact that the wireless microphone itself may have been useless while attempting to use that frequency, due to interference from the television station, will also be left out.

    So basically the rigged test will be used to deny Google's hopes of fielding devices to use unused spectrum, thereby maintaining the television broadcast industry's lock on chunks of spectrum that they're not even using. It's an inefficient waste of spectrum that dates back 50 years to the days of radios that had just enough vacuum tubes to put a signal into the air, and had none left over for complicated automatic frequency usage detection algorithms. Nor had the Ethernet exponential back-off anti-interference algorithm been connected to the problem. The regulatory regime is antiquated, but the entrenched corporations that have a vested interest in spectrum are defending what they see as "their" airwaves merely on principle.

    It wouldn't take a working group all that long to come up with new technical requirements that could be used as FCC regulations that would make use of ALL allocated but unused licensed spectrum, without ever interfering with older dumb devices. Software radios that receive before broadcasting, analyze the results, move on to another frequency if usage is detected, exponentially back off that frequency if it's still in use the next time around, transmit only during some defined time slice, and never broadcast more than 1 watt of power could use that spectrum without legacy device interference and without mutual device interference. Google knows it. The TV industry knows it. The TV industry feels besieged after having parts of spectrum that has been their exclusive stomping grounds for decades sold off to the highest bidder while they get squeezed into digital broadcasts. Google claims they're pulling dirty tricks to defend the spectrum they have left. Just sitting here looking in from outside, I have to agree.

    • by swonkdog (70409) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @08:56PM (#25160039)

      It takes only a moment to see that it was a rigged test because the wireless Internet device did NOT interfere with the microphone, because it did successfully detect the local television station that was broadcasting on that frequency and therefore did not try to use it. Analog TV stations are some seriously high power broad spectrum noise. Any frequency-hopping wireless Internet device would be useless attempting to use the same frequency and would obviously move on to another part of the spectrum, thereby avoiding interfering with the TV station and any other device being masked by it. That part will be conveniently left out of the headlines. The fact that the wireless microphone itself may have been useless while attempting to use that frequency, due to interference from the television station, will also be left out.

      The test is not rigged. I have been doing RF coordination for entertainment professionally for about a decade now and I can assure that with this test the FCC has highlighted one major strategy that we use in crowded RF environments.

      An analog television station is not the high power broadband noise machine you make it out to be. An NTSC analog signal takes up 6MHz of bandwidth in the radio spectrum. That signal is actually made up of three distinct signals that are modulated into one channel; those signals are a video carrier, a chromance sub-carrier (color) and a sound sub-carrier. Those signals take up a few 100kHz of bandwidth and are separated by a few 100kHz.

      The standard RF microphone used for stage, television and film production has a peak bandwidth of ~ +/- 56kHz or a grand total of ~112kHz total deviation. With that small usage of bandwidth we can fit three microphones into an operating analog television channel without causing interference to the primary spectrum user.

      The FCC test seems to be showing that Google's engineers are unaware of this strategy employed by RF coordinators and that if their device decided to employ the same strategy, it would interfere with the operating microphone within the analog television channel.

      Mind you, this becomes moot on 19 February 2009 as we cannot do this trick with a digital ATSC signal. That is the high-power noise generating machine you are refering to.

      -e

      • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @09:32PM (#25160337)

        Then, given that all you'll have to work with is an impenetrable square wave, and given that the FCC knows this, what is the purpose of demonstrating that you can play funky tricks by squeezing a microphone into space that will no longer exist? How can it be anything other than rigged? You said yourself this trick will not even be possible in just a few short months. How is a test that tests an environment that will no longer exist anything but a con job? My definition of "rigging" a test is creating a test that is not a faithful representation of the actual operating environment to the detriment of the applicant.

        I know, I know, never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. So some idiot designed the test, thinking he was being clever, when it had nothing to do with the environment that will pertain by the time any action could be taken to approve whitespace devices.

        I still say that the Google devices checked for signals right where the 6 Mhz of spectrum was supposed to be in use, and immediately moved on, chalking off the whole block as occupied. Why check further when the licensed user is very much clear and present? It doesn't even require naivete to make that decision. It only takes a conservative engineer. Just because people like you are willing to squeeze your signal into that occupied frequency doesn't mean they were. (I don't mean that pejoratively. I'm referring to you as representative of your industry, representing long-established practice.)

        And you and I both know that the theoretically lovely 6 MHz NTSC analog signal gets bounced around by structures and atmospheric effects until it gets smeared across 20 MHz or more. The buffer zone built in to the 6 MHz allocation has never been enough to prevent signal bleedover into the space of other stations.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by weav (158099)

        I am the Game-Day frequency coordinator for a major-league sports team (contractor to the league). Some of my colleagues were in on the test and I have read their individual on-field reports.

        My recollection is that a good many of the WM's tested in this experiment were in "good, clean whitespace." Let's think it through - a WM hidden in an occupied analog TV channel should be protected by the much stronger carriers of that station. If the whitespace-using net gear is equipped to use such small interstit

      • Doesnt that mean that Microphones would fail too, when analogue disappears?

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      you are incorrect. it dates bac kto the days when the recievers and transmitters were giant hunks of stinky crap and did not have good filtering to reject out of channel interference. Old zenith tv's would suck in the IF frequency of a radio from 6 feet away. they had no shielding, used 35% tolerance components and were built like garbage.

      Today the digital tuners can easily reject out of band and ajacent channel signals easily The transmitters finallly have decent filtering on the output so they are

  • When I saw the "white space" being rigged reference I was expecting some election cover-up story from some red state in the bible belt.
  • FTFA (hiliting mine) "The FCC's wireless microphone field tests were carefully planned and thoroughly executed based on sound engineering science and real-world operating scenarios. These tests were open to the public, and those who choose to discount the results -- which have not yet been published -- had every option to be present and to witness them for themselves."

    Ya gotta learn how to play the game, this is gov't after all guys and apparently you didnt lobby quite enough for this.
  • Crybaby (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Toll_Free (1295136) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @10:47PM (#25160939)

    This is exactly how spooks and the like hide a microphone (bug).

    The best way is to have it transmit within the exact same frequency or spectrum that another service uses.

    If you use low enough power for your transmitter, you minimize collateral receivers being able to pick your signal up, while at the same time making it near impossible to track or find the bug.

    Google's guy is just pissed he got one-upped. The FCC did this entirely within the realm of what would happen in the real world.

    Sometimes it sucks to come out from behind the keyboard and discover real world stuff, huh?

    --Toll_Free

  • Filter error: Please use less whitespace.
  • I'm not saying that an opinion should be solely based on whether or not an industry group employs unethical tactics like astroturfing, and not on the merits of each side's arguments; but if you did, you would side with Google. There are dozens of comments on the Washington Post page that are clearly (to me) part of an "online strategy" by those opposing opening up whitespace.

  • by jmanforever (603829) <jmanforever@roER ... g minus math_god> on Friday September 26, 2008 @04:47PM (#25171333)

    Tests rigged? That's not what I get from the director of advanced development for Shure Brothers Microphones, Edgar Reihl.

    He was there for the tests last month.

    See this article in Broadcast Engineering magazine:

    http://broadcastengineering.com/hdtv/reihl-sheds-light-wsd-tests20080819/index.html [broadcastengineering.com]

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