Friday, August 31, 2007

FCC Says No to M2Z

The FCC today finally responded to M2Z Networks' application for authorization to build and provide a free national wireless broadband network (as previously reported here) using 2.1 GHz spectrum - their answer was no.

In my view at least, that is a correct decision. Now, before anyone jumps to any conclusions about why I believe it correct, take the time to
read the Commissions Order yourself which may provide some insight and background that you were not aware of....then we can debate the matter!


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Report to 110th Congress - Spectrum Management and the 700 MHz Auction

The Open CRS Network has released a report to members of the 110th Congress describing the FCC's spectrum auction process and key policy issues to be considered in the up-coming 700 MHz auction. It's an interesting read, particularly for anyone concerned with wireless spectrum matters.

According to the report, "The FCC has concluded that auctioning of spectrum licenses has contributed to the rapid deployment of new wireless technologies, increased competition in the marketplace, and encouraged participation by small businesses. However, many have questioned whether auction policy should be supplemented more aggressively with other market-driven solutions, and whether the existing auction process and administration can be improved."

The report also says that "Spectrum management is an exercise in reconciling divergent interests. Over time, developments in technology may significantly increase the amount of usable spectrum and consequently the ease with which a policy of equitable allocation and use can be crafted. For the immediate future, Congress may choose to debate and act on questions such as
reforming spectrum management and allocation mechanisms. Some observers argue that a fully-developed policy should take into account issues such as international competitiveness, the communications needs of public safety agencies and the military, the role of wireless technology in economic growth, and the encouragement of new technologies that make spectrum use more efficient and more beneficial to society as a whole. The stated objective of many policy reformers is a coherent national policy (FYI - such a policy DOES NOT CURRENTLY EXIST - NR) that provides the proper balance for existing applications while at the same time providing opportunities for future growth and development."

The report ends by stating "Given the number of objectives in the allocation and use of spectrum, and the differing solutions for achieving them, choices made for 700 MHz could be far-reaching in setting the direction for future policy decisions."

I hope that yours and my representatives in Congress take the time to read this relatively brief yet fact-filled (21 page) report. Hmmmm.....perhaps a few readers of this blog will be kind enough to forward a copy of the report to them along with your thoughts and suggestions on spectrum matters??


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

700 MHz, TV "White Space" Spectrum, the FCC and the Future of Wireless Communications

She's done it again! Susan P. Crawford, that is. In her latest working paper, The Radio and The Internet, she presents a broad overview and historical background (with many footnotes to more in-depth details for those with inquiring minds) of how the natural resource known as the RF spectrum has been allocated and managed (or, as many believe, mis-managed) by the FCC over the last several decades.

But, she also has done an excellent job (the best I've seen, at least) of putting into a pretty balanced context most of the unbalanced rhetoric, hype, and political posturing from all sides of the hotly debated 700 MHz auction rules proceeding that we've all just experienced.

She also reminds the regulators of the pressing need for them to be much more decisive than they have been regarding the definition of the "public interest" aspect of 21st century spectrum and technology matters during the on-going TV "White Spaces" debate which, by the way, will most certainly be the subject of the next big spectrum battle. Stay tuned - it's likely to be just as contentious if not more so than the 700 MHz debate was since it involves unlicensed use of the spectrum.

Here's the abstract of the paper, but the actual paper is a much better read and really deserves a few minutes of your time:


The airwaves offer the potential for contributing to enormous
economic growth if they are used more efficiently for facilitating
high-speed internet access, but recent industry and government
actions have failed to follow this path.

This article evaluates the multi-billion-dollar 700 MHz auction
regime established by the Federal Communications Commission
in August 2007 as a case study in our national approach to this
valuable resource, and argues that the public interest would
be served by having ubiquitous access to the internet be
the top
priority of communications policy.

The article criticizes the nearly exclusive focus of the FCC on the
interests of incumbents and law enforcement, and suggests that
spectrum policy be focused on enabling unlicensed uses of the
airwaves that can assist the nation with online access.

Download a copy and decide for yourself.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Imports, Toys, Food, and the FCC.....

If toy and food imports from China (and certain other countries) have managed to get through various government inspection systems designed to protect the often unenlightened public from nasty surprises, do you suppose it is at all possible that non-compliant electromagnetic-emitting electronic devices having the potential to pollute the RF spectrum might have evaded these systems as well?

For some insight to this question, you should read this commentary authored by fellow blogger Michael Marcus, a retired FCC engineer who (as per his blog) "focused on developing policies for cutting edge radio technologies such as spread spectrum, CDMA, and millimeter waves. The rules for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and most of the cordless phones sold in the U.S. are one outcome of his early leadership. He also had several key roles in the FCC’s Spectrum Policy Task Force."

Having been in the wireless communications industry for over 30 years, I've seen and experienced some of what he describes and, must agree with him regarding the business practices that some electronic equipment producers employ simply to maximize their profits. Unfortunately, many of them consider the few paltry fines imposed as "just a cost of doing business" and write the expense off.

Protection of the wireless/RF spectrum seems to have been relegated to the regulatory rear burner in many respects in favor of the many real or perceived economic benefits purportedly to be derived from this natural resource. Only after-the-fact, when problems surface, is any type of remedial action taken and, often, in the opinion of many, such action is both ineffective and mis-applied.

Much more proactive attention needs to be focused on protecting us from imports and U.S. produced products of ALL types - including those that emit unwanted electromagnetic radiation that can disrupt radio and wireless communications. We can ill-afford having to contend with any "spectrum disaster" created by the lack of ongoing and aggressive enforcement of spectrum policy and rules.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

M2Z Networks to Sue FCC

Startup M2Z Networks is upset that the FCC has yet to take action on a 2006 spectrum application and proposal filed by the company so...... it's going to file a lawsuit against the regulatory agency.

M2Z Networks' proposal is (or maybe was) to offer free ad-supported wireless broadband to 95 percent of the U.S. within 10 years, using 20 MHz of spectrum in the 2 GHz band (2155-2175 MHz). The speed of the free tier — 384 kbps down and 128 kbps up - barely qualifies the service as broadband, but might be acceptable to the average sit-in-the-park-and-surf-the-web wi-fi user who has nothing better to do.

In addition, there would be a 3 Mbps 'premium' service available to paying subscribers. The company proposes to lease the spectrum in exchange for it giving the FCC 5 percent of the gross revenues realized from its premium service. Public Safety entities would also have access to the network at no cost other than for the hardware, if I recall correctly.

However, The Wall Street Journal claims that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has shared a thumbs down opinion on the proposal with the rest of the commissioners. If the WSJ report is accurate, M2Z's legal threat may be pretty much meaningless.

As to the potential for success for this type of free network? Pretty questionable, at least in my opinion; most ad-supported free wi-fi networks have yet to pan out economically and most have discovered - the hard way - the many real-world realities inherent to wireless performance, coverage, and security. Not many have lived up to the promotional hype generated by their proponents nor delivered the user-experience expected. Besides, how much advertising can one take, anyway?

Check out M2Z's web site, then decide for yourself, though.


Monday, August 13, 2007

"White Space" Proponents to Try Again at FCC

Well....we didn't have to wait that long to learn the answer to the question I posed in a previous post concerning the TV "White Space" device testing proceeding, and, I don't think anyone will be very surprised as to what it is.

Microsoft filed a letter with the FCC today claiming that the scanner in one of two WSD prototypes submitted was damaged and "operated at a severely degraded level." The scanner in the wireless device is supposed to sniff for broadcasts in spectrum before transmitting in the band and switch to another band if the first one is occupied. The FCC found that the prototype did not consistently detect TV broadcast signals and could cause interference.

Also, this past Friday, the FCC extended an invitation to interested parties to participate in an on-site visit to the FCC Laboratory in Columbia, Maryland to observe and discuss the test set up and procedures for evaluating the performance of these devices.

The meeting will occur on Thursday August 16, 2007 at 1 PM at the Commission’s Laboratory in Columbia, Maryland. Parties interested in attending should send an e-mail to, identifying the organization and how many individuals plan to attend (space is limited). At the meeting, Commission staff will provide an overview of the tests, answer any questions, and consider suggestions for any further testing to evaluate the performance of TV White Space Devices. Directions to the Laboratory can be found at

Make your reservations early.....


Thursday, August 9, 2007

Invitation to the Spectrum Matters On-Line Discussion Group

Advancements in wireless (RF or radio) communications and information technology over the last decade have unleashed a flood of new devices, products, and services, provocative ideas and intriguing questions, political rhetoric and posturing, market-place confusion, controversy, and, a growing concern by many as to whether FCC and NTIA spectrum allocation, regulation, use, and rules enforcement policies are 'keeping up with the times' - or with technology.

As one might expect, all this hullabaloo has led to increasing calls by wireless stakeholders for something called "spectrum reform" that we're hearing more and more about each day.

Spectrum Matters is an on-line, moderated Yahoo! discussion group focusing on member-shared wireless spectrum news, information, and trends, responsible opinion, debate, ideas, experiences, commentary, and questions related to the real or perceived social, economic, and technical benefits or consequences that may be realized by updating legacy and/or implementing new wireless spectrum management policy to effectively address these important issues and concerns.

Topics and discussions are targeted towards
business, educational, industrial, enterprise, public safety, local, state, regional, federal government and similar types of PROFESSIONAL wireless mobile communication users who depend on access to the radio spectrum in their daily activities and who want to learn more about how and why wireless spectrum matters can, will, or already have had an impact on them.

If you are a professional wireless user and have an interest in wireless communications in general and spectrum issues in particular, please consider
joining us. (Membership approval requires a response to a New Member Confirmation Request emailed to you during the sign-up process)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

FCC to Sprint/Nextel - Get The Job Done Or......

The Nextel interference debacle just keeps dragging on and on and on.....

Here's a report on the latest developments courtesy of the 08/07/07 Wall Street Journal:

• The Warning: The FCC is pushing Sprint Nextel Corp. to put an end to the disruption that its wireless system causes in emergency radio communications because its broadcast spectrum is interwoven with one used by police and firefighters.

• The Deal: The company agreed in 2004 to pay to move its service and public-safety agencies to separate channels, and was awarded 10 megahertz of coveted spectrum as an incentive.

• What's Next: With political pressure rising, the FCC says it may dictate a solution if the company doesn't pick up the pace.

(For more background and insight on this almost 10 year old and still unresolved problem, do a Google search using "800 mhz" "nextel" "rebanding" and "public safety" as the search words or, read over 3000 other entries from the industry available on the FCC's electronic comment site - enter "02-55" in the "Proceedings" field, then click "Retrieve Document List" at bottom of form)

Clearing Emergency Radio Waves
FCC Presses Sprint on Cellphone
Static Hindering Police Spectrum

August 7, 2007
Page A4 - The Wall Street Journal 08/07/07

Public-safety officials have been complaining for years about static from cellphones that disrupts emergency radio communications. Now the Federal Communications Commission is stepping up the pressure on Sprint Nextel Corp., the company whose signals are causing the most interference, to address the problem.

With talk of a renewed threat of a terrorist attack, the middle of the hurricane season approaching and the Minneapolis bridge collapse, some lawmakers are urging the FCC to take more control of the process. "The FCC needs to ensure that our police, firefighters and other first responders can use the spectrum without interference," says Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.). "Communication on these frequencies is essential for public safety."

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin warns that he wants to see progress soon, or the FCC will dictate a remedy
. Sprint Nextel concedes it is taking longer than anticipated to solve the problem and attributes the delay to its efforts to do it as economically as possible.

The static is more than a nuisance. In Pennsylvania's Upper Uwchlan Township, police officers handling accidents on busy Route 100 regularly lose contact with dispatchers. Chief John De Marco says interference cut off a call he made during a traffic stop involving a fugitive; another time it happened when he was responding to a bank alarm. School-bus drivers, prison systems and utility workers have had calls interrupted by cellphone interference.

The problem has been intensifying with growing use of Sprint Nextel's network, the Nextel portion of which was created using a slice of the airwaves interwoven with the one used for emergency communications. Interference wasn't much of a problem when the spectrum was used as originally designated -- by construction crews, taxi drivers and other workers who needed souped-up walkie-talkies for short conversations.

In 2004, as use of Nextel service grew and static more frequently interrupted public-safety communications, the company, the FCC and safety groups agreed on a solution: Nextel would pay to move its service and public-safety agencies to separate channels. As an incentive, the FCC would give the company an additional 10 megahertz of coveted spectrum.

The company began negotiating with local public-safety agencies about the exact network upgrades they needed and how much the company would pay for them. The following year, Sprint Corp. acquired Nextel Communications Inc., making it necessary to mesh those two networks as well.

From the beginning, Sen. Lautenberg has questioned the legality of the deal. He says he remains concerned about the protracted process, in which hundreds of separate negotiations have ended up in mediation.

The fix was never expected to be easy or inexpensive. As part of its 2004 agreement with the FCC, Nextel promised to pay at least $4.86 billion - (
up from Nextel's original offer of $800 million) - and complete the job in three years. But many of the negotiations between Sprint Nextel and local authorities have landed in protracted mediation while interference has continued. (So far, with only 11 months left to go in the 36 month time-frame mandated by the FCC, the majority of Public Safety systems throughout the U.S. have yet to complete the process and, the interference continues, pretty much unabated)

"There's no way we're going to meet the 36-month end date, and there's very little sense of how much this could ultimately cost," says Robert Gurss, a lawyer with Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth PLC and director of legal and government affairs for the Association of Public-Safety
Communications Officials International.

While switching channels might sound easy, it isn't. Wireless-network equipment used by thousands of public-service agencies across the country needs to be modified, as does every mobile phone or other radio device the agencies use. As a measure of how much ground still
must be covered, Motorola Inc., a provider of equipment to the public-safety community, estimates it has shipped only 1% of the new phones and other equipment needed to complete the overhaul.

Ed Atkins, director of emergency services for Chester County, Pa., which includes Upper Uwchlan, has been negotiating for three yearswith Sprint to pin down the cost of preliminary studies to upgrade the police, fire and ambulance communications. He puts the initial costs
at about $650,000, substantially more than Sprint's $400,000 offer.

Mr. Atkins sees the price of the entire conversion ranging from as little as $18.5 million to as much as $150 million, depending on how many radios need replacing and how much of the county's communications infrastructure needs to be overhauled. "I was told we were going to
have our costs for this exercise covered," Mr. Atkins says. "I believe what people tell me: They say they are going to pay me. I believe they are going to pay me. It's very frustrating."

Sprint Nextel says by the end of this year, it will have spent about $1.5 billion. It acknowledges it has taken a tough stand in negotiations with public-safety officials, but cites that the original
agreement specified that it spend at least $4.86 billion. If the full project costs less, the difference goes to the Treasury; if it costs more, the Reston, Va., company is responsible for the costs.

"Every dollar we spend is a dollar that doesn't go to the U.S. Treasury," says Lawrence Krevor, Sprint's senior vice president, government affairs. "We don't have a lot of discretion. In fact, we
have very little discretion as to how we act here."

Some competitors may have been less than happy with the FCC's agreement to hand over coveted spectrum to Sprint. AT&T Inc. filed a complaint with the FCC in April in which it urged the agency to consider taking enforcement action, including possibly taking back the spectrum. The company says every time there is an incident of interference in areas in which it operates, it has to ensure it is not its signal which is causing the disruption, incurring costs in the process.

The FCC said Sprint should focus on getting the job done, not saving money for the Treasury. That statement "was a reflection of the commission's frustration with the current pace and a desire to motivate all the parties so that we really move forward in an expeditious manner," Mr. Martin says.

All sides acknowledge they hadn't anticipated just how difficult making changes would be. Public-safety networks, unlike commercial networks, can't be taken offline for repairs. "People's lives are hanging on this," said Steve Proctor, executive director of the Utah Communications Agency Network, which is supervising the channel switch in his state. "You're having to redesign and rebuild the airplane while it's still flying."

Write to Corey Boles at corey.boles @

Better yet, write or contact your congressman, senator, local or state public safety agency and the FCC to voice your concerns about this serious life-safety issue today.


Sunday, August 5, 2007

"White Space" Prototypes Fail FCC Test

Not so good news about those prototype devices from Microsoft and a group made up of Dell, EarthLink, Google, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Phillips Electronics who have been pushing hard for approval of unlicensed operation in the "white spaces" of the the TV broadcast bands....

Initial Evaluation of the Performance of Prototype TV-Band White Space Devices - July 31, 2007

Conclusions: This report determined that the sample prototype White Space Devices (WSD's) submitted to the Commission for initial evaluation do not consistently sense or detect TV broadcast or wireless microphone signals. Our tests also found that the transmitter in the prototype device is capable of causing interference to TV broadcasting and wireless microphones.

However, several features that are contemplated as possible options to minimize the interference potential of WSDs, such as dynamic power control and adjustment of power levels based on signal levels in adjacent bands, are not implemented in the prototype devices that were provided.

Given these results, further testing of these devices was not deemed appropriate at this time.

Prototype Devices Report FCC/OET 07-TR-1006 (85 Pg PDF)

Direct Pickup Report FCC/OET 07-TR-1005 (28 Pg PDF)

So....the question to be asked seems to be.... will they try again?