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FCC Chairman Warns of Wireless Spectrum Gap

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the congress-from-whom-all-blessings-flow dept.

Government 300

locallyunscene writes "'We are fast entering a world where mass-market mobile devices consume thousands of megabytes each month,' FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski warned at CTIA Wireless yesterday. 'So we must ask: what happens when every mobile user has an iPhone, a Palm Pre, a BlackBerry Tour, or whatever the next device is? What happens when we quadruple the number of subscribers with mobile broadband on their laptops or netbooks?'"

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300 comments

Surrogates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29687093)

This is the just one of reasons Surrogates is so absurd.

It's 1996 again? (1)

chicago_scott (458445) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687099)

This sounds like back in the mid-1990's when people were giving dire prediction about the Internet being overloaded and becoming unusable.

The more things change the more they stay the same.

Re:It's 1996 again? (4, Insightful)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687267)

The difference is that the internet is more scalable. We didn't run into problems back then because of increases in CPU power that allows for larger routing tables and advances in fibre that allows for more data on the same strand. This is a physical problem. There is only so much spectrum available. Once the air is saturated on the allocated frequencies, we are done. No more room, period.

Re:It's 1996 again? (4, Interesting)

Nikker (749551) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687439)

Don't worry about the physical bandwidth as it will open the door to more ideas like distributed caching and broadcasting single packets among multiple devices. Then again the more people cry about the sky falling the more incentive there is to impliment ideas like this for way too much money to satisfy egos. Wireless is really the way to go for the end consumer and if it does really get that big then cell carriers will devote their towers into the mix(for a price of course). Remember it's not all the bandwidth that's being eaten up it's just this particular portion as demand goes up so eventually will the supply, we will just come up with more effective and clever ways of doing it.

Re:It's 1996 again? (5, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687447)

>>>Once the air is saturated on the allocated frequencies, we are done

Not quite "done". We can say goodbye to over-the-air FM and TV. We already lost channels 52 to 83 that were turned-over to cellphones, and I suspect it's only a matter of time until channels 2 to 51 (including the FM band) disappear. That would not meet the FCC's "30 fold" estimate, but it would increase the available wireless spectrum by about 9 times present levels.

Lower frequency shortwave and AM radio will probably survive, simply because it's not practical to carry-around 100 foot long transmitting antennas with your phone.

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687785)

"Allocated frequencies" were key words. Yes, there are lots of other frequencies that we could use, some better than others. The problem is that they are not currently licensed for that purpose, so cannot be counted as available bandwidth.

Re:It's 1996 again? (3, Insightful)

randy of the redwood (1565519) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687473)

I think GP is probably correct. When we have problems, we tend to find solutions to them. Certainly with today's approach we are going to run out of bandwidth. Perhaps tomorrow's technology will stop sending signals in every direction, but somehow negotiate direct paths over the air using directed antennae from one or both transceivers. Then the 3D space starts becoming your friend instead of your enemy.

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

rescendent (870007) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687487)

We could start using Ultrawide band and just our data rates, while decreasing power needs and interference? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultra-wideband [wikipedia.org]

Re:It's 1996 again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29687743)

Simple solution. The US will simply have to buy back the spectrum it stupidly sold in auctions to companies, at a hundred times the selling price. Errr, maybe we don't have the money left anymore, having spent it on Iraq and Afghanistan, bailing out bankers and investment companies, and cash for clunkers...

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687987)

What are you talking about "Buy it back"?

These companies are using this bandwidth to provide the services we need. Ever heard of a Cell phone?

The government has no need of this specturm. WE the PEOPLE do.

Buy it back from ATT and your cell phone is off the air.
In your case this may lead to considerable signal to noise ration improvement. But in the general case its a silly suggestion.

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 4 years ago | (#29688141)

These companies are using this bandwidth to provide the services we need. Ever heard of a Cell phone?

I disagree with the fact "we need" cell phone service.

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687967)

This is a physical problem. There is only so much spectrum available.

Kind of reminds me of the predictions that 9.6, then 14.4, then 28.8 were the fastest possible modem throughput on copper because it was physically impossible to squeeze any more information onto the available bandwidth.

Yet each time someone makes this assertion something else comes along.

With radio, as frequencies increase, building penetration, foliage penetration decreases. With increased cellular handset density the signal to noise floor rises and soon the phones can't hear themselves for all the shouting they have to do to be heard.

This is why the 700Mhz band was so important to wireless applications. Freeing this from television allows use in applications where range and penetration are important, such as cell phones and urban wifi.

Alowing cellular phones to add ranges in the 700Mhz band to the work-horse 850 and 900 bands allows broader coverage with the same towers, and increased building penetration.

Similarly, newer encoding schemes (the way modem speeds were enhanced) will allow faster service in the same bandwidth, or the same service in narrower bandwidth. Some say that the the encoding schemes in GSM are over due for enhancement anyway.

Additionally, different employment strategies can free up a lot of bandwidth over a urban area. We are starting to see many carriers deploying Femtocells, low power wifi and 3G stations that feed direct to the internet, and are no bigger than a book. If deployed widely, you could have a low power cell "tower" on top of a utility pole at every intersection, each with a range of a city block.

That solves a multitude of problems, not the least of which is suppressing the transmit power of every cell phone in range, which greatly improves the signal to noise ratio. There is probably no reason to ever build a cell tower in urban areas.

Lets not predict the end of time just yet.

Obvious... (1)

Twigmon (1095941) | more than 4 years ago | (#29688013)

Massive wi-fi mesh? In fact, India already does something very similar for a very long time.

Isn't it great that so many of our mobiles already have wi-fi hardware!?

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29688147)

I thought of a solution.

Have cell towers and data towers be much much closer together. Then have them all be short range. And transfer the data over cables. Done, If we make 30x as many towers (these would all be tiny cheap places compared to current towers) and made more fiber hookups... Then the problem is solved without anything particularly genius. We can probably keep doing this for quite some time before it becomes a major issue.

Re:It's 1996 again? (2, Interesting)

TikiTDO (759782) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687367)

Spot on. The problem with the article is that it fails to account for advances in technology. As we need more bandwidth, technology will evolve to give you more bandwidth. That in less spectrum, with higher reliability and less interference.

As you pointed out, this happened for wired connections in the past. In response, we are almost to commercial 40Gb and even 100Gb links, the latter being targeted for 40km stretches [wikipedia.org] .

Re:It's 1996 again? (3, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687493)

>>>technology will evolve to give you more bandwidth.

No. There's a limit to how much technology can do. That's why phone lines are maxed-out at 56 kbit/s - there's no more room for expansion since it's already at the physical limit. Same applies with wireless.

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

kevinmenzel (1403457) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687525)

DSL isn't over phone lines?

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

TikiTDO (759782) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687545)

DSL users faeries on pixie dust. You really should keep up with these things.

Re:It's 1996 again? (4, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687845)

No DSL is *not* over telephone lines. POTS (plain old telephone service) is defined as having a 0 to 8000 hertz bandwidth, hence the 56k dialup limit. The engineers have squeezed as much data as they can into that limited range.

DSL disconnects the POTS line, and replaces it with a central box (DSLAM) that converts the incoming twisted-pair and passes it along to higher-quality fiber or coax.

BTW thanks for modding me "troll" kevinmenzel.
-1 I disagree is not why moderation exists.

Re:It's 1996 again? (2, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687911)

Correction: Replace "8000 hertz" with "4000 hertz"

Re:It's 1996 again? (2, Insightful)

spinkham (56603) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687935)

So you're saying it wasn't a physical limitation of the broadcast medium at all, it was a hardware limitation of the receiver.

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

fluffy99 (870997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687937)

Yes it is using the same physical lines (although they may have to be cleaned up to remove loading coils or branched circuits). As you pointed out though, it not the same equipment at either end. Also, calling it an 8000 hertz bandwidth is rather misleading. It's an 8-bit sample taken at a sampling rate of 8000 hertz, not an 8k wide frequency range as your wording might imply. Its the sampling rate time the sample size that gives you a theoretical 64-kilobit/second limit, but other FCC and technical issues such as the typical robbed bit signaling end up dropping the max to 56k.

Typically, the DSLAM at the wiring closet or CO is connected via fiber to the rest of the infrastructure.

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

tweak13 (1171627) | more than 4 years ago | (#29688149)

No DSL is *not* over telephone lines. POTS (plain old telephone service) is defined as having a 0 to 8000 hertz bandwidth, hence the 56k dialup limit. The engineers have squeezed as much data as they can into that limited range.

Actually that limit is digital in nature, and has nothing to do with the quality (or lack thereof) in the lines themselves. I work at a university and we use phone lines to move audio from building to building. It's analog the whole way, with all switching equipment removed and everything hard wired together at the university's telecom office. It's good enough to get FM broadcast quality even running all the way across campus and back again.

Re:It's 1996 again? (2, Informative)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687557)

I'm getting about 7 Gbits from the phone line that used to be maxed out at 52k or so, and I can make voice calls on it at the same time as my downloads, something I couldn't do before.

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687745)

I'm pretty sure you're not using the phone line, but rather the cable that the phone line also happens to use. Ordinary phone lines max out at 56k, because the whole infrastructure of voice calls is designed with that limitation in mind.

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687827)

I'm pretty sure you're not using the phone line, but rather the cable that the phone line also happens to use.

Same line, different signal.

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687961)

>>>Same line, different signal.

No... same line, different bandwidth. The bandwidth is the key. 4000 hertz for the phone dialup modem versus ~200,000 hertz for the DSL connection. If the DSL was forced to limit itself to the same bandwidth as a dialup modem, it would only be 64k. (This is called a "DSzero" or "DS0" line by the telephone company, also called ISDN.)

DSL also terminates your line only a few hundred feet from your house, and upgrades it to fiber or coax, whereas the original telephone line could travel many miles with no apparent degradation of the 4000-hertz-wide signal.

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687841)

7 Gbits!?!? WOW, who is your provider? Do you live in the local exchange? If, so, that would definitely explain how you can make calls at the same time...

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

blitziod (591194) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687875)

you mena the phone line that used to be maxed out at 1200bps, then 2400 bps, then they KNEW that 9600 bps was the max ..there was JUST no way to send any more information down a single phone line. Then they KNEW 56000 bps was the max, etc..

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29688123)

>>>Then they KNEW 56000 bps was the max, etc..

Ever heard of the Shannon limit? On an analog phone line, you cannot exceed 35 kbit/s (V.34). Ever heard of Nyquist theory? On a digital phone line, the 4000 hertz bandwidth sampled at 8000 times per second, times 7 bits per sample == 56000 maximum.

As Scotty on Star Trek would say, "You cannae change the laws of physics!"

Re:It's 1996 again? (2, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687899)

>>>I'm getting about 7 Gbits from the phone line that used to be maxed out at 52k or so

No you're not. When you upgraded to DSL, the company disconnected the telephone line (bandlimited to 4000 hertz) with a standard twisted-pair wire (no upper limit). Furthermore they disconnected your house from the old phone service, and connected it to a DSLAM which converts the short ~500 meter cable to higher-quality coaxial or fiber.

So my previous comment about the 4000-hertz wide telephone service still being limited to just 56k is still true.

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

TikiTDO (759782) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687603)

I think kevinmenzel illustrated the point quite well. Analog phone lines are indeed no faster than 56 kbits/second. That's why we went to a new technology, and now have DSL. However, I'm not proposing we try to get more data into current wireless protocols, clearly that is a waste of time as they were not designed to do this.

Physically though, the spectrum is effectively infinite. With technology advanced and sensitive enough, you could send all the world's data in a second, using the same spectrum that might now carry 10 bytes. Obviously, that might never even happen, but it is not wise to completely discount it.

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

chicago_scott (458445) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687779)

Analog phone lines are indeed no faster than 56 kbits/second

For the sake of clarity analog phone lines are inherently limited to 2400 bits/second (bps). Better compression algorithms got us up to 56 kbps.

Re:It's 1996 again? (3, Informative)

fluffy99 (870997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687985)

Analog phone lines are indeed no faster than 56 kbits/second

For the sake of clarity analog phone lines are inherently limited to 2400 bits/second (bps). Better compression algorithms got us up to 56 kbps.

For the sake of clarity, you don't know what the fuck you're talking about. 56-kbits/second is the max because that's what the analog-digital converters within the telco are set for. A DS0 phone circuit is by definition a 56k or 64k digital channel (depends on inband or out-of-band signalling). The early 2400 and 4800 limits were due to poor quality lines and equipment that just wasn't setup to go faster. This was back when most users were just doing text and fax machines were the bandwidth intensive applications.

The magic of 56k comes from the users modem being able to synchronize its timing and discrete output levels (the "constellation") to match the analog-digital converter attached to the users phone line. The server end of the circuit must be digitally connected for this to work.

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29688081)

>>>phone lines are inherently limited to 2400 bits/second (bps). Better compression algorithms got us up to 56 kbps.
>>>

False. The physical limits on an analog phone line are 3,429 SYMBOLS per second, with approximately 10 bits represented by each symbol, to achieve 33,800 bits per second (V.34)

The physical limits on digital phone lines are 8000 SAMPLES per second, and 7 bits each, to yield 56,000 bits per second. The 8th bit is reserved by the telephone company, otherwise we would see 64000 bit/s.

Using V.92 data compression, you can achieve an *apparent* speed of ~400 kbit/s for text, ~150 for executables, and ~56k for incompressible JPGs, GIFs, and other datafiles.

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687999)

>>>I think kevinmenzel illustrated the point quite well. Analog phone lines are indeed no faster than 56 kbits/second. That's why we went to a new technology, and now have DSL.
>>>

Yes but if DSL was forced to fit inside the same bandwidth as the old dialup phone modems (4000 hertz wide), it would still only be 64 kbit/s speed. *That* was the point I was making... you can only squeeze so much data into a FIXED width of space. The universe places physical limits in what engineers can do.

Another example is Digital AM Radio, which is limited to just 4500 hertz in Europe, or ~20 kbit/s.

Re:It's 1996 again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29687605)

How about harmonics, sidechannels, and other data compression gimmicks that allow the military to beam encrypted voice and data over a brick? Or even multichannel skipping, packets fragmented and burst transmitted over any available frequency to be reassembled?

Or an increase in the discrimination of signal to noise ration, and the infinite slices of an individual Mhz?

This post also ignores that there will never come a time when everyone is using multiple devices, small matters like population density and the simultaneous number of active sets... in short, no one will ever be using their device at exactly the same time for the same duration. In the same geographically covered area, there may be a high number of users, yes... but will there ever be enough to saturate every single wireless tower?

Especially once I'm offered a discount on my slave contract for allowing a small tower to be placed on my forehead.

Re:It's 1996 again? (1)

TikiTDO (759782) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687663)

Ooh, so many new terms to look up. This promises to be enlightening.

Though you would need to negotiate your slave contract discounts with your authorized, killer-robot-overlord happiness allocation unit.

Spectrum auction (5, Interesting)

Scutter (18425) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687101)

Isn't that why our government just auctioned off billions of dollars of our publicly-owned spectrum? So that companies could sell it back to us in the form of a three-year contract?

Re:Spectrum auction (1)

mblumber (267394) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687513)

Minus the sarcasm, you're absolutely right.

The AWS and 700MHz auctions have opened up a vast amount of real estate to be used for high speed data. When that's exhaused, the FCC will start dolling out other valuble spectrums vacated by analog TV. I feel like today's RF environment is still fairly green, dispite Genachowski's comments to the contrary.

"thousands of megabytes" (2, Funny)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29688079)

Isn't that why our government just auctioned off billions of dollars of our publicly-owned spectrum?

The department that manages that spectrum is apparently run by somebody who has yet to discover the term "gigabytes". What could possibly go wrong?

The FCC is at fault (1, Insightful)

dada21 (163177) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687115)

Having an organization that is bureaucratic instead of market driven is going to cause the biggest issues. Today, we still are wasting a significant portion of bandwidth on broadcasting when the future is point to point communications along with some form of P2P crowdcasting. Get rid of the public airwaves and work on letting the market come up with standards -- frequency hopping software radios, hive networks, whatever. It'll be more efficient, cheaper, and it'll provide for much more competition.

Broadcasting is dying.

Re:The FCC is at fault (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687327)

Hive Networks sound interesting, is that like a Borg's subspace interlink node?

Re:The FCC is at fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29687333)

Awesome. I'm going to raise capital to build big towers that 'broadcast' transmissions on your favorite carrier's bands, unless they pay me $5,000,000 a year. 'Cause, like, without the FCC, it'll be all market driven, right?

Re:The FCC is at fault (4, Interesting)

vux984 (928602) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687347)

Get rid of the public airwaves and work on letting the market come up with standards -- frequency hopping software radios, hive networks, whatever. It'll be more efficient, cheaper, and it'll provide for much more competition.

er... this is where cellphones are already heading. hell... they are already there.

Today, we still are wasting a significant portion of bandwidth on broadcasting when the future is point to point communications along with some form of P2P crowdcasting.

crowdcasting/p2p is going to evolve significantly. We are already near the cusp i think, given how much traffic is already p2p. Sooner or later p2p is going to be metered and restricted and paid for. As soon as that happens crowdcasting is dead in the water. It only works as long as everyone has 'unlimited bandwidth' right now the market is working out that 'we have a lot, but its not unlimited, but we won't meter it yet because we have enough that most people don't need to know its not unlimited and unlimited is easier to sell... so we'll just deal with the blowback when the very small number people run us into the limits.

Let something like 'crowdcasting video' catch on to the point that it can replace 'broadcast tv', where everyone anywhere watching a TV show is simultaneously p2p serving it back on to the network... at the point the jig is up; and the bandwidth meters will go up.

Re:The FCC is at fault (2, Insightful)

angelbunny (1501333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687413)

A daisy chain type mesh setup? Oh hell no! There is no way I'm going back to setups like that. Anyone remember apple talk?

Re:The FCC is at fault (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687523)

>>>Today, we still are wasting a significant portion of bandwidth on broadcasting when the future is point to point communications along with some form of P2P crowdcasting.
>>>

Soooo..... it will take about 1000 times more wireless/cellphone spectrum to do what broadcast TV does in just 300 megahertz. Point-to-point sounds horribly inefficient to me?

Our Military (1)

JeffAMcGee (950264) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687131)

We could always kindly ask the military to use a little less of the spectrum. I'm sure they really don't need half of the spectrum. What do you think are the chances of that happening?

Wireless technology (5, Insightful)

Renegrade (698801) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687155)

Welcome to the real world of physics.

Wired and optical technologies will ever be superior to wireless, by the simple fact that they're essentially 1D lines running through 3D space, whereas a typical wireless signal is a 3D signal in 3D space - a single frequency gives a fixed bandwidth to a single user in a given ~volume~.

Advanced tricks allow increased sharing, but the fundamental limitations remain.

Consider the volume of a typical wifi base station .. now imagine filling that volume with OC192 cabling. As they say on the "intartoobs", "pwned".

Re:Wireless technology (1, Insightful)

relguj9 (1313593) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687425)

Welcome to the real world of physics.

Wired and optical technologies will ever be superior to wireless, by the simple fact that they're essentially 1D lines running through 3D space, whereas a typical wireless signal is a 3D signal in 3D space - a single frequency gives a fixed bandwidth to a single user in a given ~volume~.

Advanced tricks allow increased sharing, but the fundamental limitations remain.

Consider the volume of a typical wifi base station .. now imagine filling that volume with OC192 cabling. As they say on the "intartoobs", "pwned".

Superior in bandwidth and security, inferior in about 100 other ways, mainly the fact that there is a wire involved.

Re:Wireless technology (0, Flamebait)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687595)

inferior in about 100 other ways, mainly the fact that there is a wire involved.

I believe that's 1 way. 99 more to go ;)

Re:Wireless technology (2, Informative)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687953)

I wish people would stop pretending that wires are secure enough use unencrypted. It's like they never heard of beige boxing.

Re:Wireless technology (1)

flydude18 (839328) | more than 4 years ago | (#29688005)

You're assuming that devices are limited to omnidirectional transmission. What if they were all fitted with tiny phased arrays? It's conceivable that they could keep the beam pointed toward a single base station, and interfere very little with the space around them.

I don't even know if this is a plausible solution to your problem, but it's the first thing that came to mind. I'm not prepared to predict that innovation will stop.

Get spectrum used by obsolete technolgies (2, Insightful)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687159)

AM and FM radio. Who listens to the radio anymore? It's either over the internet for "radio" or in the car use MP3s, iPods, or CDs for us old farts. Shortwave? Does anyone actually listen to it? I turned on a shortwave and between huge swaths of static, there was Cuba radio, Canadian News (that can be kinda cool), and a few folks praising Jesus and condemning non-believers (everyone who doesn't give them money).

Re:Get spectrum used by obsolete technolgies (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29687209)

Aren't those both about 100khz of bandwidth apiece? less? I think you're talking about adding a few dial-up modems worth of bandwidth at the cost of destroying something that's reliable/DRM free with something that's not. IP is not, and was never intended to be, a realtime protocol.

Re:Get spectrum used by obsolete technolgies (1)

TikiTDO (759782) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687297)

A few hundred khz of bandwidth is quite a bit of data that you could be sending, especially properly compressed/processed/split into segments.

Re:Get spectrum used by obsolete technolgies (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687661)

Okay - FM is 20 megahertz wide and AM is about 1 megahertz wide, so we're talking the equivalent of 3.5 television channels.

According to the ATSC spec, that's just 70 Mbit/s of datawidth.
According to the HDR spec, you get 300kbit/s per 0.2 spacing, or about 32 Mbit/s.
Trivial.

Re:Get spectrum used by obsolete technolgies (1)

TikiTDO (759782) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687783)

Sure, it's trivial to calculate what we can do using older techniques, but how does that relate to whatever spec is going to be rolling out in 2019, when this might become more of a problem? After all, a bit of time on Wikipedia, both of these specs were developed in the 1990s.

And since we're on the topic, why did you not bring up the 802.11n protocol, which can accommodate 288 Mbits/s in a 20 MHz channel?

Uh no.. try TV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29687303)

Radio takes nothing very little spectrum.

According to the fcc chart AM radio takes about 1 MHz. FM takes about 20 MHz, but that still isn't much compared to TV. It says 18 MHz just for channels 2-4. That's nuts. Don't forget that you transmitters got to space out the channels, at least that's what I hear.

Shortwave: Numbers Stations: Spies (2, Interesting)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687389)

Shortwave? Does anyone actually listen to it?

Spies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numbers_station [wikipedia.org]

One man's static, is another man's coded instructions.

So you admit to listening to shortwave static and Cuba Radio? What a give-away.

I'm not sure about Canadian News, but I'm sure some charges could be trumped up for you listening to that.

As for the Jesus folks, Bibles make excellent One Time Pads: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_time_pad [wikipedia.org]

I think shortwave will be around for a bit, even if only spooks listen to it.

Re:Get spectrum used by obsolete technolgies (3, Insightful)

compro01 (777531) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687395)

If you took the entirety of the AM and FM radio space, you'd have about as much frequency space as a single wifi channel, which would be spread over a fairly large area due to the signal propagation properties. Shortwave would be even worse in that respect.

In short, it would not be very useful.

Re:Get spectrum used by obsolete technolgies (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687517)

> AM and FM radio. Who listens to the radio anymore?

I do, among about 230 million others in the US. Americans spend more time listening to FM radio than to Internet radio, MP3 players, or CDs.

> Shortwave?

For "mobile devices"? There are a few problems with that...

> I turned on a shortwave...

One you bought at Best Buy for $9.95? With a loop antenna? A real performer, no doubt.

Re:Get spectrum used by obsolete technolgies (4, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687617)

If there's no radio in my car, what am I supposed to listen to? And before you say "iPod" I don't want to hear the same music over and over. I want to hear new stuff. Also traffic and weather reports ("warning: tornado coming") are nice to have. I like my radio and if they take away both AM and FM, then I'm going to hurt somebody. :-| At the very least leave me AM.

>>>I turned on a shortwave and between huge swaths of static,

What? You need to get rid of that old unit, because they have digital shortwave now. It sounds almost as good as a CD, and still remains popular in Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Re:Get spectrum used by obsolete technolgies (1)

Rising Ape (1620461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29688003)

Millions of people listen to FM radio. Sheesh, are slashdotters experiences of people really so narrow that that you assume that the geek segment of the population is the only one? Yes, let's get rid of that to add a tiny amount of extra space for people to watch Youtube videos on their mobiles.

There's a better case for re-using the old analogue TV spectrum, but only because it's been replaced with a functionally equivalent but more bandwidth-efficient system. Broadcast radio hasn't.

Questions that don't really beg answers... (-1, Troll)

TiggertheMad (556308) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687171)

What happens when we quadruple the number of subscribers with mobile broadband on their laptops or netbooks?'

You sell the service providers more spectrum, you dumbass...

how much are they paying this guy for be the head of the FCC, because it's too much.

What always happens... (3, Insightful)

rxan (1424721) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687193)

What happens when we quadruple the number of subscribers with mobile broadband on their laptops or netbooks?

The same thing that always happens: The telecoms cry like babies and the consumers get less for equal or greater cost.

Re:What always happens... (3, Insightful)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687419)

What happens? "Traffic shaping" in the form of more caps and deep-packet inspection. For our own good, of course ...

Open Spectrum Access (1)

abbynormal brain (1637419) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687229)

I read an interesting argument back in 2000 (the piece was actually delivered in 1995!) and titled "Taking the Next Step Beyond Spectrum Auctions: Open Spectrum Access". Unfortunately we'll be fighting an uphill battle: "Governmental agencies tend to be staffed by lawyers who view a frequency as a unique property right."

amateur radio (1)

viridari (1138635) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687233)

You watch, the hams are going to lose spectrum to facilitate commercial interests.

Re:amateur radio (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687901)

There are international treaties to observe. HAM spectrum won't disappear quickly.

yes: by broadband over power lines (1)

epoxide (1184881) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687981)

Someone upthread mentioned that mobile devices won't interfere with amateur radio because of the inconvenience of carrying around a 100ft antenna ... any guesses on what you've made when you send broad spectrum RF signals through all of the power lines in a neighborhood?

What about the Spectrum ? (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687263)

Yes, all those mobile devices have wireless and yet the venerable Spectrum [wikipedia.org] still has none. No fair !

Dynamic frequency negotiation (4, Interesting)

six11 (579) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687265)

I'm no radio engineer, but it is my understanding that there's been a bit of work on dynamic frequency negotiation that allow devices to find frequencies that are and aren't being used (or what levels of noise there are). I've just started looking into Software defined radio [wikipedia.org] and the more esoteric (and horribly-named IMO) Cognitive radio [wikipedia.org] that theoretically provides the (artificial) intelligence to perform such negotiation. The theory is that this approach makes more efficient use of the same spectrum while improving communication for those devices because their I/O is very flexible. And, the devices are hackable in software, which is fun for the whole family.

If there are any radio people in the room, speak up.

Re:Dynamic frequency negotiation (2, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687729)

>>>allow devices to find frequencies that are and aren't being used

Yeah there's already been tests using these devices on the TV Band. What they found was the device could detect strong local stations, but not the low-level signals from 40 miles or more distance, so they started broadcasting over top existing TV stations, thereby interrupting viewers' reception. The idea was rejected by the FCC in early 2008.

Economics (2, Interesting)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687291)

It's pretty simple, really. If the company makes money on each connection, and reinvests part of that profit, then the service network overall grows more capable. More towers, more frequencies, more bandwidth.

Assuming that the phone companies are smart enough to reinvest a portion of their profits - at my company we invest heavily in growth, and have at any time about 5x-10x capacity headroom, along with fully redundant backup schema for D/R. A few times, we've leaned on that extra infrastructure - while not cheap, it's cheap insurance.

Why would cellular networks be any different?

Dynamic Allocation (2, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687299)

> What happens when we quadruple the number of subscribers with mobile
> broadband on their laptops or netbooks?

You finally admit that it isn't 1920 anymore and give up on centralized static global allocation?

Re:Dynamic Allocation (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687915)

No, you drop the power and use more cells.

at that rate... (1)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687309)

Does anyone else see a problem with this quote from the article?

"The DTV transition freed the 700 MHz block and increased the available wireless spectrum by a multiple of three, Genachowski estimated. But that took more than five years to complete. At that rate, it would take 50 years to accommodate our wireless data growth. "

the 700MHz block was not deallocated at a constant rate over the course of 5 years... it took five years of political/business BS to clear it. That's not to say that clearing a larger block won't take more time, but there's certainly no reason to believe the relationship would be linear. I think this is a case of a reporter regurgitating words that he liked the sound of.

Are Silos The Problem? (4, Interesting)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687449)

"'We are fast entering a world where mass-market mobile devices consume thousands of megabytes each month,' FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski warned at CTIA Wireless yesterday. 'So we must ask: what happens when every mobile user has an iPhone, a Palm Pre, a BlackBerry Tour, or whatever the next device is? What happens when we quadruple the number of subscribers with mobile broadband on their laptops or netbooks?'"

Is the problem all the silos? Suppose every house with a land-line connection also had a wi-fi hub that was open. I think the bandwidth problem would not exist.

We'd be left with the "how can we profit on this" problem and the "how can the FBI spy on this" problem, but those don't seem nearly as important as the "how can we make information access ubiquitous and fast" problem.

Re:Are Silos The Problem? (4, Informative)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687681)

Suppose every house with a land-line connection also had a wi-fi hub that was open. I think the bandwidth problem would not exist.

802.11 based systems aren't good at many things that existing cellular systems are. It doesn't have soft handoffs and doesn't work well when the same network has adjacent cells using the same channel. For 2.4 GHz 802.11, there are only 3 non-overlapping channels.

802.11 can't support devices at the same distances / similar power as modern cellular networks.

Re:Are Silos The Problem? (3, Interesting)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687829)

802.11 based systems aren't good at many things that existing cellular systems are. It doesn't have soft handoffs and doesn't work well when the same network has adjacent cells using the same channel. For 2.4 GHz 802.11, there are only 3 non-overlapping channels.

Good info

802.11 can't support devices at the same distances / similar power as modern cellular networks.

If you could solve the first point above, would that be a problem if open hotspots (or something similar) were ubiquitous?

You'd still need long distance for low population areas, but there isn't a spectrum crunch out there. The spectrum crunch is where population density is high -- which is where large numbers of land-line connected wireless repeaters of some sort seem to be able to solve the problem.

Admittedly, this is way outside of any kind of existing feasible business model -- but peculiar new problems seem like a decent place for peculiar new solutions.

I am genuinely curious what you think -- I think it would serve us all well if we could figure out a workable solution.

Handoff how many times per minute? (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29688113)

If you could solve the first point above, would that be a problem if open hotspots (or something similar) were ubiquitous?

Good luck solving soft handoff for a bus traveling at 45 km/h or 30 mph. It's the same reason cell phones don't work well on planes: they pass over too many cells per minute.

Over Hyped (2, Interesting)

angelbunny (1501333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687467)

In a congested, high user area wouldn't the telephone companies be able to turn the power down on the cell towers and then add more towers closer together? This way you can get more users in a given space, right?

I admit, I know little to nothing when it comes to radio waves, but I do know back in the 90's pre DOCSIS cable ISPs did not limit their users speed, or at least the ISP I was on. Often times the 'pipe' would fill up. The case and effect was slower bandwidth speeds for me but since it was on the ISPs end it was a high bandwidth / low latency setup aka my ping never jumped up regardless if my max speed was 500kB/s or 100kB/s.

In other words, cable ISPs added tier pricing to make more money not because there was bandwidth issues. If there was an issue with the node being over used they would just add another node aka 10 mile radio for the node now becomes a 5 mile radios for 2 or 3 nodes and then 5 miles down to ...

I know radio is more complicated than that but if it worked and does work for cable ISPs then why can't it work for cell companies as well?

Re:Over Hyped (1)

Eric Smith (4379) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687527)

That's the correct solution, but the carriers will try to grab more spectrum first, since it's less expensive for them to add more antennas to existing cell sites than to build new cell cites.

Re:Over Hyped (3, Interesting)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687787)

I know radio is more complicated than that but if it worked and does work for cable ISPs then why can't it work for cell companies as well?

Cable companies:

  • have almost 1 GHz of bandwidth, although much of it is used for TV. Wireless providers have much less; in some markets, some providers might only have 10 MHz.
  • have control of the coax/fiber on their network. If there's a problem that results in increased transmission errors, they can fix it. Mobile providers don't control the space between the base station and the mobile device, and can't tear down obstructions to the signal.
  • don't really have to deal with variable signal quality, like mobile devices do. When a mobile device's signal quality drops, error correction must be increased and/or the raw data rate must be decreased.
  • don't need to introduce additional latency to better handle errors, and don't need to retransmit dropped frames/packets as often.
  • can allocate more channels to data if necessary, especially as analog channels are eliminated and digital channels are moved to SDV.
  • can split a node so that fewer customers use the same shared channel(s), and can do so as many times as needed. Cellular providers can't build towers whenever they want.
  • can use the same channels on separate nodes with no effect between them. Adjacent cells on (W)CDMA-based networks can share a channel - but this increases the total noise, and will not result in the full bandwidth being available from all given cells. (It also results in reduced power levels, which means poorer service in areas with poor signal strength.)
  • don't have to deal with handoffs at all - a DOCSIS modem stays plugged in to the same line, and doesn't physically move to another location. Cellular networks support handoffs, and customers get upset when handoffs do not work.

DOCSIS provides 38 mbit shared downstream iny 6 MHz. In optimal conditions, current HSDPA tech provides up to 14.4 mbit shared downstream using 5 MHz, and real world results will frequently be less than that.

scale (4, Insightful)

Eil (82413) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687509)

'We are fast entering a world where mass-market mobile devices consume thousands of megabytes each month,'

Which is not as bad as a few gigabytes a month. But definitely far, far worse than millions of kilobytes per month.

The facists response - (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29687589)

'So we must ask: what happens when every mobile user has an iPhone, a Palm Pre, a BlackBerry Tour, or whatever the next device is? What happens when we quadruple the number of subscribers with mobile broadband on their laptops or netbooks?'

Isn't the answer obvious? The providers jack up the price because the resource is "scarce;" all government sanctioned and perfectly legal.

Re:The facists response - (1)

stuckinphp (1598797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687877)

This makes me want to cut myself.

orders of magnitude (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29687645)

"devices consume thousands of megabytes"?! that sounds almost as bad as millions of kilobytes!

Re:orders of magnitude (1)

izomiac (815208) | more than 4 years ago | (#29688021)

It's expressions like that that make me worry for society. If your target audience can't count past 1,000 then what hope is there for them to understand frequency shortage?

Sometimes I think a highschool diploma should have to be renewed every ten years. The recent British study on people's inability to locate their heart convinced me; ignorance is a pandemic now.

Demand management (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687683)

We'll fix the problem by keeping all those toys off the air much of the time. Laws will be passed such that if you so much as look at a wireless device while driving, it'll be confiscated.

There. Problem solved.

We'll wish we had standardized. (1)

strangeattraction (1058568) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687733)

What is going to happen? We will wish that we had standardized on gsm or something so that we could get the most efficient use from the spectrum. Congress's rush to sell spectrum for a windfall will come back to haunt us. This is what happens when policy makers don't really understand what they are making policy about.

Re:We'll wish we had standardized. (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#29687947)

What is going to happen? We will wish that we had standardized on gsm or something so that we could get the most efficient use from the spectrum.

Not really. Old GSM is horribly inefficient compared to WCDMA or CDMA, and simply using the same technology won't make all the providers decide to build one big wireless network or allow roaming between any network at any location.

At any point in the past 6 years or so, there have been 2-3 GSM networks and 3-4 CDMA networks in my area. The GSM phones are technically capable of working on any of the GSM networks, and the CDMA phones are technically capable of working on any of the CDMA networks. But in most cases, customers can only use the network they subscribe to. Back when I had a T-Mobile phone, I'd often see "Emergency Only" or a similar message with maximum signal strength, because T-Mobile's signal was too weak to be usable and they did not allow roaming on AT&T or Cingular's GSM networks.

Spectral efficiency is always increasing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29687757)

Frequency division multiplexing (dividing up information into "bands" of frequency) is only one way to slice up space/time/etc. There are many ways to stuff more bits into a given frequency band such as using multiple receiving antennas to increase the signal to noise ratio, use of better 1/0 encoding schemes, and so on. Another possibility is the use of the polarization [wikipedia.org] property of light. Stuffing two different data streams on the same frequency at opposite circular polarizations is really simple to do, both sending and receiving. Further slicing of the polarization is possible, as well, so there's plenty of room in the spectrum yet.

Add more Channels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29687863)

The FCC could, if it wanted to, give 8 channels from the old analogue TV space back to the public at large, for the benefit of the public. I know, a novel idea. We could then supplement the cells phones with this, instead of the nasty microwave popcorn leftovers that is wifi, and with an additional rule, like to, if you want to run a base station at more than 2 watts, you have to provide free internet access. Add in meshing, and we'd even have something that could help emergency responders and the general public in situations like large earthquakes.

No scarcity with the right technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29687955)

Anyone know about UWB? Ultra wideband radio. Supposedly it can use the entire spectrum without interfering with itself or other radios on any frequency. Any device that can do that has all the bandwidth available because it can use the entire spectrum - so, there is no shortage of spectrum if this technology was unleashed. However, UWB has been regulated so it is underpowered because the regulators were afraid it would make the regulatory regime redundant, and hence render the world's most valuable commodity (spectrum) a non-cash cow. The FCC argued that the technology would cause airplanes to fall from the sky - like cel phones on airplanes. Can't blame them for regulating it into the background because any technology that can end a system that creates artificial scarcity is revolutionary - a paradigm shift. Problem is, we don't make the decisions. I believe you cannot stop technology from advancing, and someday we will not have to worry about lack of spectrum because UWB or its kin will eventually make it a moot argument.

I'll tell you what happens.... (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29688055)

Networks start to clog up and Americans will start being fed b.s. about 'needs' to manage network traffic despite the horrible scope of network bandwidth/proliferation in the US relative to other industrialized nations, namely Korea/Japan.

ISP's stated they could double bandwidths at the cost of $6/home, but that option is easily avoided at the benefit of saving $6/home and blaming straw men.

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