On September 23, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously adopted a Second Memorandum Opinion and Order (the Second Order) in the TV white space proceeding to address a spate of petitions for reconsideration that were filed in late 2008 in response to the agency’s initial white space rules.

In 2008, when the Commission first authorized the unlicensed use of vacant “white spaces” in the TV band, it required white space devices—now termed “TV Band Devices” (TVBDs)—to employ two mechanisms to protect licensed users of the TV band, including broadcast stations and licensed wireless microphones. First, the FCC required that a TVBD possess the ability to determine its location and to use its geolocation information to search an online database of available channels. Second, because wireless microphones can be licensed for use throughout a wide area, the Commission also required that a TVBD have the ability to sense the presence of a nearby broadcast signal or a wireless microphone.

In the Second Order, the Commission dropped the spectrum sensing requirement, such that TVBDs will rely solely on geolocation information to ensure that devices protect licensed uses of the TV band. Each TVBD will be required to check the geolocation database daily to obtain a list of available channels at its location. In addition, a mobile TVBD will also be required to reverify its location every 60 seconds and will be required to recheck the geolocation database if the device has moved more than 100 meters since its last database query.

Licensed wireless microphones generally will not be included in the geolocation database, but certain licensees—in particular, sporting and entertainment venues that use multiple wireless microphones—will be able to request inclusion in the geolocation database. As a further measure of protection, the FCC also announced that it will set aside two channels in each television market so that licensed wireless microphones can operate in a spectrum that is not shared with TVBDs.

The Second Order also addresses several technical issues raised in the petitions for reconsideration. Significantly, the Commission declined to change TVBDs’ permitted power levels, and it retained rules governing the certification of TVBDs that rely solely on spectrum sensing to protect incumbent users of the TV band. The Second Order also lifts the prohibition against TVBD operation in the Canadian and Mexican border areas