In an action that won the praise of wireless and consumer groups, the FCC unanimously adopted a Second Memorandum Opinion and Order yesterday that finalizes rules for unlicensed wireless use of digital television “white spaces.” Resolving various technical and legal issues associated with the FCC’s original white space order of November 2008, yesterday’s ruling partially fulfills the spectrum objectives of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) in which the FCC affirmed that 500 MHz of spectrum is needed over the next ten years to satisfy burgeoning demand for new wireless broadband services. Unlike spectrum that is currently used for unlicensed Wi-Fi services, unused white space channels in the 470-698 MHz bands are capable of supporting wireless broadband transmissions that can travel over great distances and can penetrate through walls. To spur cost-effective development of mobile handsets and other devices that operate on white space channels, the FCC eliminated its earlier requirement that white space devices that incorporate geo-location capabilities must also include sensing technology to detect the signals of adjacent TV and wireless microphone stations. Instead, such devices will query a special geo-location database, to be designed by the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET), which will identify what other entities (if any) are transmitting on or near affected white space channels in any given locality. Although the FCC declined requests to allow OET approval of sensing-only devices, the order encourages “continued development of this capacity, because we believe it holds promise to further improvements in spectrum efficiency in the TV spectrum” and “will be a vital tool for providing opportunistic access to other spectrum bands.” Among other things, and to ensure interference protection for adjacent wireless mic operations, the order also sets aside two vacant UHF channels between channels 14 and 51 for wireless mic use. Describing the new wireless services that will utilize the white space bands as “Wi-Fi on steroids,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski predicted that “this new unlicensed spectrum will be a powerful platform for innovation.” As the Wireless Innovation Alliance praised the order as “the first step in continuing meaningful spectrum reform that makes markets work more dynamically,” Public Knowledge Legal Director Harold Feld voiced hope that “the FCC will give the technology the maximum flexibility to reach its potential and not burden the spectrum with requirements that would restrict its reach.” Declaring that its goal in the white spaces proceeding “has been to ensure America’s continued interference-free access to high-quality news, entertainment and sports provided by free and local television stations,” the National Association of Broadcasters said, “we look forward to reviewing the details.”