FCC – public comments regarding Smart Grid Noise Pollution

PUBLIC NOTICE

Federal Communications Commission

445 12th St., S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20554

News Media Information 202 / 418-0500

Internet: https://www.fcc.gov

TTY: 1-888-835-5322

DA 16-676

Released: June 15, 2016

OFFICE OF ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY ANNOUNCES TECHNOLOGICAL

ADVISORY COUNCIL (TAC) NOISE FLOOR TECHNICAL INQUIRY

ET Docket No. 16-191

Comment Deadline: August 11, 2016

The FCC’s Technological Advisory Council (TAC), an advisory group to the FCC operating under the

Federal Advisory Committee Act, is investigating changes and trends to the radio spectrum noise floor to

determine if there is an increasing noise problem, and if so, the scope and quantitative evidence of such

problem(s), and how a noise study should be performed. In this public notice, the Office of Engineering

and Technology (OET) announces the TAC’s public inquiry, seeking comments and answers to questions

below for the TAC about radio spectrum noise.1

TAC Noise Floor Technical Inquiry

The TAC is requesting input to help answer questions about the study of changes to the spectrum noise

floor over the past 20 years. Noise in this context denotes unwanted radio frequency (RF) energy from

man-made sources. Like many spectrum users, TAC members expect that the noise floor in the radio

spectrum is rising as the number of devices in use that emit radio energy grows. However, in search for

concrete evidence of increased noise floors, we have found limited available quantitative data to support

this presumption. We are looking to find ways to add to the available data in order to answer important

questions for the FCC regarding this topic.

Radio spectrum noise is generated by many different types of devices. Devices that are not designed to

generate or emit RF energy but do so as a result of their operation are called Incidental Radiators. Most

electric motors, light dimmers, switching power supplies, utility transformers and power lines are

included in this category. There is little regulation governing the noise generated by these devices. Noise

from such sources is expected to be minimized with “Good Engineering Practices.”

Devices that are designed to generate RF energy for internal use, or send RF signals by conduction to

associated equipment via connected wiring, but are not intended to emit RF energy, are called

Unintentional Radiators. Computers and many portable electronic devices in use today, as well as many

new high efficiency lights, are included in this category. Current regulations limit the levels of emitted RF

energy from these devices.

Unlicensed Intentional Radiators, Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) Radiators, and Licensed

Radiators are devices that are designed to generate and emit RF energy by radiation or induction. Cellular

1 https://transition.fcc.gov/bureaus/oet/tac/tacdocs/meeting6916/TAC-Noise-Floor-Technical-Inquiry.pdf

2

phones and base stations, unlicensed wireless routers, Bluetooth devices, broadcast TV and radio stations,

and radars of many types, are all examples of licensed / unlicensed intentional radiators, and microwave

ovens, arc welders, and fluorescent lighting are examples of ISM equipment. Such emitters contribute to

the noise floor with emissions outside of their assigned frequencies. These are sometimes generated as

spurious emissions, including, but not limited to, harmonics of desired frequencies and intermodulation

products. Regulations that permit the operation of these devices also specify the limits of emissions

outside of licensed or allowed (in the case of unlicensed devices) frequencies of operation.

We are looking for responses to the following questions to help us identify aspects of a study to determine

trends in the radio spectrum noise floor.

1. Is there a noise problem?

a. If so, what are the expected major sources of noise that are of concern?

b. What services are being most impacted by a rising spectrum noise floor?

c. If incidental radiators are a concern, what sorts of government, industry, and civil society

efforts might be appropriate to ameliorate the noise they produce?

2. Where does the problem exist?

a. Spectrally

i. What frequency bands are of the most interest?

b. Spatially

i. Indoors vs outdoors?

ii. Cities vs rural settings?

iii. How close in proximity to incidental radiators or other noise sources?

iv. How can natural propagation effects be accounted for in a noise study?

c. Temporally

i. Night versus day?

ii. Seasonally?

3. Is there quantitative evidence of the overall increase in the total integrated noise floor across

various segments of the radio frequency spectrum?

a. At what levels does the noise floor cause harmful interference to particular radio

services?

b. What RF environment data from the past 20 years is available, showing the contribution

of the major sources of noise?

c. Please provide references to scholarly articles or other sources of spectrum noise

measurements.

4. How should a noise study be performed?

a. What should be the focus of the noise study?

b. How should it be funded?

c. What methods should be used?

d. How should noise be measured?

i. What is the optimal instrumentation that should be used?

ii. What measurement parameters should be used for that instrumentation?

iii. At what spatial and temporal scales should noise be measured?

iv. Should the monitoring instrumentation be capable of determining the directions

of the noise sources? If so, how would those data be used?

v. Is there an optimal height above ground for measurements?

e. What measurement accuracy is needed?

3

i. What are the statistical requirements for sufficient data? Would these

requirements vary based on spectral, spatial and temporal factors?

ii. Can measurements from uncalibrated, or minimally calibrated, devices be

combined?

iii. Is it possible to “crowd source” a noise study?

f. Would receiver noise measurements commonly logged by certain users (e.g. radio

astronomers, cellular, and broadcast auxiliary licensees) be available and useful for noise

floor studies?

g. How much data must be collected to reach a conclusion?

h. How can noise be distinguished from signals?

i. Can noise be characterized and its source identified?

ii. Is there a threshold level, below which measurements should be ignored?

Procedures

Interested parties may file comments up until the comment deadline indicated on the first page of this

document. Comments may be filed using the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS).

See Electronic Filing of Documents in Rulemaking Proceedings, 63 FR 24121 (1998).

Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed electronically using the Internet by accessing the

ECFS: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/.

Paper Filers: Parties that choose to file by paper must file an original and one copy of each filing.

If more than one docket or rulemaking number appears in the caption of this proceeding, filers

must submit two additional copies for each additional docket or rulemaking number.

Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial overnight courier, or by firstclass

or overnight U.S. Postal Service mail. All filings must be addressed to the Commission’s

Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.

All hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings for the Commission’s Secretary

must be delivered to FCC Headquarters at 445 12th St., SW, Room TW-A325,

Washington, DC 20554. The filing hours are 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. All hand deliveries

must be held together with rubber bands or fasteners. Any envelopes must be disposed of

before entering the building.

Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service Express Mail and Priority

Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743.

U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority mail must be addressed to 445 12th

Street, SW, Washington DC 20554.

People with Disabilities: To request materials in accessible formats for people with disabilities (braille,

large print, electronic files, audio format), send an e-mail to fcc504@fcc.gov or call the Consumer &

Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 202-418-0432 (tty).

For further information, please contact TAC Spectrum and Receiver Performance working group cochairs

Greg Lapin, ARRL (GLapin@arrl.org) and Lynn Claudy, NAB (LClaudy@nab.org), or TAC

working group FCC liaison Robert Pavlak, FCC Office of Engineering & Technology

(Robert.Pavlak@fcc.gov

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