The first round of field tests of white space devices has been scheduled by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), starting today.

Google, Microsoft and other companies have been advocating for the use of the unused slices of spectrum between analog TV channels (the so-called white spaces) for unlicensed wireless services.

The first white space prototype devices failed in lab tests, though the second round of lab tests was successful, leading to this week’s field tests.

The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) will conduct a test of the devices – made by Microsoft, Philips and Motorola – with a small handful of residences in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., a couple of sports venues (tests for wireless microphones), and in its own offices.

The use of white spaces is a controversial issue. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is skeptical that the technology will even work, noting that Microsoft has experienced unexplained failures of its equipment during tests.

Broadcasters also oppose the scheme for fear of interference with existing channels. Should white space wireless technology avoid interference, the NAB prefers the spectrum should be licensed, not unlicensed.

NAB EVP Dennis Wharton was skeptical in a statement: “NAB has no quarrel with field tests, but based upon multiple failures of unlicensed devices in laboratory testing thus far, we remain highly skeptical that this technology will ever work as advertised.”

The NAB is also applying political pressure, getting 70 U.S. senators and representatives – many of them influential – to agree to have their names listed as being among those who have expressed concern about the scheme.

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