Steven J. Crowley, P.E.
Archive for the ‘FCC’ Category
At its February 20 meeting, the FCC will likely adopt a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking as a first step toward increasing the amount of spectrum available in the 5 GHz band for unlicensed devices. Up to 195 MHz might be made available, which is a 35% increase over the present 555 MHz. Chairman Genachowski announced this initiative at CES in January. A leading application for new spectrum would be IEEE 802.11ac, which could have four instead of the current two 160 MHz-wide channels.
This summarizes a selection from 215 applications for the Experimental Radio Service received by the FCC during October, November, and December 2011. These are related to AM broadcasting, FM broadcasting, spread spectrum on HF and VHF, unmanned aerial vehicle control, electronic warfare support, small satellites, white space technology, video production, managed access, TV interference, RFID, and radar. The descriptions are listed in order of the lowest frequency found in the application.
“To generalize, it is often true that studies will be promoted that tend to support the policy inclinations of the Chairman, under whose direction, after all, every draft decision is made.”
“[S]tatistics can lie. But cast as ‘studies’ by commentors, they take on the weight that a decision maker chooses to make of them.”
As a follow-on to its National Broadband Plan, the FCC last year released a Technical Paper intended to validate the Plan’s prediction of a 300 MHz mobile-broadband spectrum deficit by 2014. The Paper describes a spectrum requirements model that totals current spectrum assigned to mobile broadband and applies a multiplier based on expected demand, taking into account expected increased tower density and improvements in air-interface spectrum efficiency. The model’s result is a predicted deficit of 275 MHz in 2014, which rounds to 300 MHz. On the way toward that result, however, the analysis uses just a few of the available data forecasts, ignores offloading of macrocell data to Wi-Fi and femtocells, and assumes the continuation of flat-rate plans for consumers. Some of these oddities I noted in a post at the time. I had hoped the FCC would make the Paper a subject of public comment. That hasn’t happened. So, I’ve looked at the Paper in more detail. I find that when looking at the above factors in a more realistic manner, predicted spectrum requirements go down significantly.
This summarizes a selection from 173 applications for the Experimental Radio Service received by the FCC during August and September 2011. These are related to long-range low-frequency radar, amateur radio, shortwave data, wireless microphones, single-sideband, mine detection, millimeter-wave communications, signal intelligence, automotive radar, satellite feeder links, meteor-burst communications, aircraft telemetry, white space systems, border security radar, 3G and 4G applications, RFID, wind turbine testing, unmanned aerial vehicles, spacecraft telemetry and control, aircraft passenger broadband, and autonomous aircraft landing systems. The descriptions are sorted by the lowest frequency found in the application.
Blogband is the FCC’s official blog of the National Broadband Plan. I find many of the posts interesting; I sometimes get more insight on where the Commission is coming from. I posted a comment to one of them a few days ago. It was accepted for moderation, and that was the last I saw of it. Wondering what happened, today I checked the Blogband Moderation Policy; since I expressed a contrary view, I suppose it might have been considered a violation of the “relevant discussion” clause. Otherwise, I think I met the provisions.
With praise for academia, the FCC has adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would make it easier for colleges, universities, and non-profit labs to conduct radio experiments. The proposed rules create a “program experimental radio license” that lets those institutions apply for broad, long-term, blanket licenses that reduce the need to go to the FCC for each and every experiment. Licensees would instead give seven days’ notice of new operations to the FCC and to the public via an FCC website. Potential interference victims could object before or after the experiment starts, but the burden of proof is on them. Licensees would agree to keep interfering signals on their property. Find something interesting during the experiment that makes you want to try a new frequency? Submit a new notice. It’s a streamlined process that will reduce licensing delays and speed up academic R&D. To get this efficiency, however, interference policing shifts from the FCC to potential interference victims; they’ll have to be on heightened alert.
On November 30, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) as a preliminary step toward making the current TV broadcast spectrum available for use by fixed and mobile wireless broadband services. The proposed rules would do three things: 1) make fixed and mobile wireless services co-primary with broadcasting in the FCC’s Table of Frequency Allocations, 2) create a regulatory structure giving two or more TV stations the option to share one 6 MHz channel, and 3) improve VHF TV reception through power increases and adoption of receiver antenna standards. No service rules are being proposed; they’re to come later. Congress has yet to approve incentive auction authority.
The FCC’s National Broadband Plan (NBP) recommends that the Commission make available 500 MHz of new spectrum for wireless broadband, including 300 MHz for mobile use. In support of that recommendation, on October 21, the FCC released an FCC Omnibus Broadband Initiative technical paper: Mobile Broadband: The Benefits of Additional Spectrum. The paper concludes that mobile data demand is likely to exceed capacity in the near term and, in particular, that the spectrum deficit is likely to approach 300 MHz by 2014.
The FCC’s professional staff is dominated by lawyers, and the agency wants to increase its numbers of economists and engineers. How does the FCC’s staffing compare to telecommunications regulatory agencies of other countries?
Economist and former FCC Senior Adviser J. Scott Marcus makes this comparison in a new paper. He cautions that his results are indicative, rather than conclusive. It’s hard to compare some agencies because, depending on the country, the same agency that regulates telecommunications may also regulate, say, trains and the postal service.
Figure 5 from the report, below, shows the distribution of professions among professional staff, and shows the predominance of lawyers at the FCC.
Figure 6 is a similar comparison among senior managers; in that role, at the FCC, engineers and economists are basically non-existent.
Marcus observes that the percentage of lawyers in these agencies generally tracks that of the countries as a whole. US society is litigious, so it may be rational for the FCC to have many lawyers.
This report is also noteworthy for it being the first opportunity for some of these agencies to compile these figures.