Archive for the ‘Regulatory’ Category

FCC Takes Further Steps toward Mobile Broadband in TV Spectrum

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

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.


FCC Finalizes White-Space Rules

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

The FCC finalized its white-space rules today, acting on petitions for reconsideration of its earlier decisions. It issued an 88-page  Second Memorandum Opinion and Order that explains its decisions and includes the final white-space rules. A much-shorter press release was also issued.

At least one FCC observer has noted an uncharacteristic level of hype in today’s announcements. The FCC calls it “super Wi-Fi,” and adds the “potential uses of this spectrum are limited only by the imagination.”

Over two years ago, Google called it “Wi-Fi on Steroids.” It was later picked up by the popular press. Not all agree; it’s “Wi-Fi on Crutches” according to one who dares to consider the realities of physics and economics.

I’ll call it “Wi-Fi on Caffeine,” at least with respect to better range and coverage — if not data rates — compared with current Wi-Fi equipment. This is partly due to operation in the UHF-TV band instead of the 2.4 GHz band. In major markets and their suburbs, there will be few or no channels available for white space use. In rural areas and other less dense areas, the technology will be a good fit with Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) and other longer-distance applications.

Cellular operators would like some of the white space on a licensed basis for backhaul in rural areas. They didn’t get it today, but the FCC is actively considering it and we may hear more on that by the end of the year.  No way are all these vacant channels going to be occupied by internet services in the most rural areas, so the proposal of the operators makes sense.

In IEEE 802, Working Groups 802.22 and 802.11 are working on standards that can be used by equipment in these applications; 802.22 may be the one with longer range. Working Group 802.19 is trying to facilitate coexistence between the two. Now, there are asymetric interference effects, which is causing friction between the two groups beyond the normal competition. (802.22 takes the harder interference hit.)

There will be other standards and equipment as well. The white space concept is international, but unique to each area of the world.

Equipment is not easy; it’s challenging to develop sufficiently-broadband power amplifiers and antennas, and to meet the emission mask in a cost-effective manner.

Another challenge is developing a business plan when 120 MHz of TV spectrum could be taken away under the National Broadband Plan.


Ultra-Wideband: How Regulatory and Standardization Delays Slowed a Wireless Technology

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

The FCC recently issued an order denying reconsideration petitions in its ultra-wideband (UWB) proceeding. That effectively ends the 12-year UWB rulemaking process. Mitchell Lazarus recounts how UWB became bogged down at the FCC and in a failed standardization attempt in IEEE 802.

UWB, as authorized by the FCC, operates across 3.1 to 10.6 GHz, with very low power at any one frequency; its tendency to cause or receive interference is very low.

IEEE 802 attempted to create a UWB standard in IEEE 802.15.3a but did not, as neither of two competing proposals reached the necessary voting threshold for approval. One of the competing proposals, Multi-band Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (MB-OFDM), has since seen some consumer success in Wireless USB, which is based on a platform maintained by the WiMedia Alliance; data rates are up to 480 Mbps at a range of about 10 feet.

UWB was eventually standardized in IEEE 802.15.4a, where it exists as an alternative physical-layer to standard IEEE 802.15.4-2006, a standard for very low power, low data rate devices. (The IEEE 802.15.3 family is for higher data rates with higher power consumption.) It uses what was the other competing proposal in 802.15.3a, Direct Sequence UWB (DS-UWB). This standardized form of UWB has been commercialized for asset tracking and other location services, but not yet for consumer applications.

Cultural Barriers to Federal Spectrum Reform

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

As the FCC searches for more spectrum for mobile broadband services, its National Broadband Plan points to federal spectrum as a candidate. Since the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is responsible for allocating federal spectrum, the FCC can’t do much more. Still, the FCC’s recommendations are good. One is for the FCC and NTIA to “develop a joint roadmap to identify additional candidate federal and non-federal spectrum that can be made accessible for both mobile and fixed wireless broadband use, on an exclusive, shared, licensed and/or unlicensed basis.” In support of that, the “FCC and . . . NTIA should create methods for ongoing measurement of spectrum utilization.”

Variations of these proposals have been around for decades, formally and informally. Once in a while, progress is made. In 1995, NTIA suggested the changing the 3650-3700 MHz band from federal-only to mixed-use (federal and non-federal). That happened, and in 2005 the FCC adopted rules that resulted in the creation of the IEEE 802.11y standard. (That allows high-powered Wi-Fi equipment to operate on a co-primary basis in the 3650-3700 MHz band in the US, except when near certain satellite earth stations.)

So, it can happen. That, and recent FCC talk of “unleashing” broadband made me think the above recommendations in the FCC’s Plan might get some traction. I’m less sure now after following the latest writings on the topic by spectrum expert Michael Marcus.

In an August 17 post on his blog, Marcus asks why NTIA isn’t measuring occupancy of the almost exclusively-federal 225-400 MHz band. He finds that the Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee (IRAC), NTIA’s advisory committee of federal users, is concerned that measurements in major cities – where spectrum is most needed – will show low occupancy because the band is primarily used by military aircraft. Marcus says enough with these delays; in the new era of cognitive radio and dynamic spectrum access technology, it’s time to see some hard spectrum data so sharing options can be examined.

If you’re intrigued by that, there’s more. An August 9 post says an NTIA spectrum advisory committee “evades some major issues and pushes the parochial agendas of some committee members without trying to relate them to the broader public interests.” A May 10 post takes you inside that committee’s meeting, and observes a general effort to protect incumbent spectrum users.

It can happen, but these reports suggest the timetable will be later rather than sooner.