Mike Weisman on 14 Oct 2000 23:43:46 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> Re: spectrum speculation

Kudos to Mr. Cisler for his informative background on the spectrum issues in the
US.  (Note: his comments seems to be unique to the US market.) October 2000
Scientific American has a very good special section on spectrum and wireless
technology for the lay person.

cisler wrote:

> A few comments on spectrum as a public resource that Mr. Graham did not discuss.
> In the early to mid-90's Apple Computer (my former employer) expended a lot of
> effort on the various initiatives to have the U.S. FCC free up a lot of
> unlicensed spectrum.  Part of this effort was to get a lot of the developers and
> those who might use the technology to work on some bandwidth etiquette and to
> outline spectrum needs.  It was not exactly like standards working groups, but
> it was close.  Big companies would be at the table and say, 'do it our way or we
> won't be in the coalition' and the rest knew that the FCC would not see the
> coalition as a strong one.  Other companies would throw out ridiculous
> requirements and make the group's demand look ridiculous. There were lots of
> small developers and firms who had good ideas but not much clout nor the same
> amount of time as a large company who might dedicate two or three people to the
> process.
> At the same time as the FCC was pulling in huge bids on licenses for some
> spectrum, we (Apple) were encouraging them to open up more unlicensed spectrum.
> Examples include the so-called Industrial Scientific Medical (ISM) bands (a.k.a.
> the garbage bands) which are used my many devices: wireless phones, point to
> point spread spectrum radios for Internet connectivity and LANs, radio
> controlled streetlights, auto theft systems, and even wirelss microphones.
> Because many manufacturers want to keep costs low, they have not built in
> adequate protection against interference.  One company that has a huge infusion
> of capital from Paul Allen and Worldcom is Metricom that has a network of
> wireless cells for an Internet service in variouls metro areas.  At a MacWorld
> conference in 1997, the use of the wireless mikes in the auditorium caused
> interference with the Metricom network set up on the exhibit floor.  A lot of
> this wireless spectrum can be used for 'home networking' --control of devices in
> the home and garden. Not just a wireless LAN of computers.
> During my final years at Apple our group worked on what is called the UNII,
> Unlicensed national information infrastructure bands in the 5 Ghz range.
> Companies that had paid huge amounts for licenses complained to the FCC that
> giving this away for free would lower the value of their licenses.  We argued
> that it was like a public beach: you can have proprietary hotel beaches running
> down the shoreline and still have some public beaches where anyone can swim, and
> this does not devalue the hotel's beachfront. Spectrum was granted.
> Now, several years later 5Ghz radios are showing up, even though Apple closed
> down its wireless group for a year or two in the late 90's and then revived it
> by using older technology and bands (the 2.4 Ghz ISM band) for its Airport
> wireless system.  These are quite popular but are susceptible to interference
> from wireless phones that use the same band.
> There are lots of other details that proponents of these bands disagree on:
> power requirements, antenna design, spread spectrum techniques or whether spread
> spectrum is all that good in the first place.
> However, this story is just one small part of what is going on, and the frenzy
> over G3 wireless promises to see the Commission face very heavy pressures in the
> coming year.  Chairman Kennard will probably depart no matter who is elected,
> and it will be a miracle if someone with a higher regard for the public and the
> underserved is appointed.
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