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Crowded US Airwaves Desperately In Search of Spectrum Breathing Room

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the running-out-of-ether dept.

Wireless Networking 105

alphadogg writes "Ahead of a major new spectrum auction scheduled for next year, America's four major wireless carriers are jockeying for position in the frequencies available to them, buying, selling and trading licenses to important parts of the nation's airwaves. Surging demand for mobile bandwidth, fueled by an increasingly saturated smartphone market and data-hungry apps, has showed no signs of slowing down. This, understandably, has the wireless industry scrambling to improve its infrastructure in a number of areas, including the amounts of raw spectrum available to the carriers. These shifts, however, are essentially just lateral moves – nothing to directly solve the problems posed by a crowded spectrum. What's really going to save the wireless world, some experts think, is a more comprehensive re-imagining of the way spectrum is used."

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105 comments

Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343137)

Maybe now they'll actually build software-defined antennas worth a damn.

Re:Obvious (1)

arogier (1250960) | about 5 months ago | (#46343469)

Seriously, FPGAs are cheap, why the hell not?

SDR Antennas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343777)

Try building your own.

Re:Obvious (1)

Phreakiture (547094) | about 5 months ago | (#46347941)

Yeah, or you could keep it simple by building an antenna with traps in it. It's worked well for a very long time and is very well understood.

Or you could use a broad-banded antenna architecture, such as a discone, cone-cone or folded dipole. Again, it's worked very well for a very long time and is very well understood.

Or you could build multiple antennas coincident in space (think Copper Catctus in miniature) and switch for frequency range by selecting which feedline you use. Need I say it? Okay, it's worked well for a very long time and is very well understood.

Or we could use a plain vanilla antenna tuner. Worked well, long time, well understood, yada yada.

I don't want to detract from the idea of building SDA's that are "worth a damn" but let's get real here: we have approaches that do work, and should be employed until we get there. Until then, using an SDA makes you a beta tester.

Re: Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46348895)

Sprint is already deploying SDA. We're already there.

C-SPAN (4, Interesting)

ShakaUVM (157947) | about 5 months ago | (#46343205)

Yeah, I was listening to C-SPAN a couple days ago, and the military was talking about the possibility of freeing up a lot of its reserved spectrum for emergency use that rarely gets used as long as the commercial applications using it could be shunted aside in the case of an actual emergency.

It was a pretty interesting talk, which dealt with the interaction of land, air, and space networks, and their different needs and adaptive capabilities.

Re:C-SPAN (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46344473)

Hah,
We have never, ever, gotten spectrum back when we need it. I'm trying to test a new'ish radar, but I can't get the full spectrum allocation that we designed to because we've given it away to be "shared", but now apparently can never use it again. Do you have an extra $27M to redesign the antenna and get it flight qualified? That's just one system. At least we can still sort of test it; the european militaries have to come to the US to do any electronic warfare; they don't have any usable spectrum allocation left.

And here's the driver for Steerable Null / DIDO. (4, Interesting)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 5 months ago | (#46343217)

Steerable Null (alias DIDO or pCell) (the latter being steerable null with widely separated antennas) effectively multiplies the avaliable bandwidth by the number of base station antennas (by giving each remote a signal containig the full band's bandwidth directed to it, while the similar, simultaneous, signals to the other remotes cancel out).

See the article from last week: New 'pCell' Technology Could Bring Next Generation Speeds To 4G Networks [slashdot.org] .

Some posters were wondering what would be the driver for adopting it. This is it: There's no more spectrum being made - but this is a way to use it simultaneously multiple times without interference between the reuses.

Re:And here's the driver for Steerable Null / DIDO (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343545)

i agree with that what you are saying ,Realy it is true [openjobsinfo.com]

Re:And here's the driver for Steerable Null / DIDO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343613)

He just put on muliple live demos of his tech at columbia:

http://www.kurzweilai.net/new-wireless-tech-may-radically-transform-mobile-video-streaming

Seems pretty workable at this point.

Re:And here's the driver for Steerable Null / DIDO (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 5 months ago | (#46343973)

I don't really think that would help the military, since they'd be using their own towers with their own *encryption.
The signals would still be stepping on each other, since they wouldn't be hooked into the same network of towers coordinating with each other.

*Though they've been flying around drones in war zones with unencrypted feeds

Re:And here's the driver for Steerable Null / DIDO (1)

Phreakiture (547094) | about 5 months ago | (#46347969)

I find myself wondering if it can be combined with MIMO. That would be very cool. Might not be practical on a handset (at least not at frequencies below 3GHz), because there is not enough space to put adequate separation between antennas, but it could work well with tablets and other physically larger devices.

Re:And here's the driver for Steerable Null / DIDO (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 5 months ago | (#46348779)

I find myself wondering if it can be combined with MIMO. That would be very cool.

It IS MIMO: the special case where:

  - The base station antennas are widely separated.

  - The data is mapped so each remote antenna gets a particular one-spectrum-channel-worth subset of the data stream (rather than several antennas getting several spectru-channels worth, but in the form of differently phased-and-weighted sums of several carriers with mixes of the data). This allows the remobe devices to work with a single antenna that can move around independently of the others.

There's no reason the signal can't be mapped so that a device with two or more sufficiently separated antennas can receive roughly as many spectrm-channels worth of bandwidth as it has antennas.

Might not be practical on a handset (at least not at frequencies below 3GHz), because there is not enough space to put adequate separation between antennas, but it could work well with tablets and other physically larger devices.

You called it. The separation doesn't need to be all that large (if the device is positioned near enough to the base stations that it "sees" adeqiate separation of the base antennas). But it does need to be at least in the ballpark of a quarter wavelength or more, even in the best of cases.

Spreading the component antennas of the MIMO base station out to different cell towers expands the area where MIMO tricks can be fully utilized in proportion - at the cost of requiring precise synchronization of local oscillators among the various antenna sites (and precise compensation for relative sway of the cell towers). But it doesn't require any changes at the remote end of the link - those antennas need the same separation for a given frequency and given perceived angular separation of the base antennas, regardless of the distance to the base antennas. (Spreading them further just means the remote can resolve smaller apparent angles, and thus work in more-than-spectrum mode further from the set of base stations.)

Lower power towers.. (1)

willy_me (212994) | about 5 months ago | (#46343219)

The solution is to build / install multiple mini-towers to replace large towers covering a larger area.

Dialling down the transmit power of both the device and tower will reduce the congestion. With fewer devices on each tower, bandwidth will increase. Also, devices will require less transmit and receive power so their batteries will last longer. And when in a more rural setting with fewer devices, service providers can still go with a larger tower to cover more area.

This is the only real solution but it requires an investment in infrastructure. From the perspective of a service provider, it is far more cost effective to convince the government to give / sell them more bandwidth. Regardless of how much bandwidth they have, they will always be begging government for more.

Re:Lower power towers.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343309)

wasn't that the business proposal of FOXCOMM`s bid for the tender to wire-up (the wireless inside) Capitol Hill?
Corning runs their transponders now, methinks....

Do any /.`rs know anything about the 4 million tonne lead dome (recently refurbished)?

Re:Lower power towers.. (2)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | about 5 months ago | (#46344401)

Exactly. That would require actual investment and work instead of just looking for an excuse to fuck people and pocket more.

Re:Lower power towers.. (1)

NewWorldDan (899800) | about 5 months ago | (#46346719)

Yeah, it would also double the cost of cell service. You'll just have to get used to getting most of your data needs from WiFi sources. I've got WiFi at home, work, most places I go to eat. That's the more small low power towers. They just aren't run by the cell companies. Actually, look for Comcast to become a major player in this space. They've been rolling out hardware to customers that functions as a WiFi hotspot for their other customers. It would be a small matter for them to adapt that for use on the major cell networks. Imagine Comcast picking up an extra $2/month for every cell phone in the US, and they don't need to deploy any extra infrastructure to do it, either.

Re:Lower power towers.. (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | about 5 months ago | (#46354405)

Suuuure it would, just like how it really does cost cell companies absurd amounts of money to include data in a section of the signal they already need to transmit...

Why don't they... (1)

justthinkit (954982) | about 5 months ago | (#46344615)

Why don't they use the Smart meters attached to people's houses?

Re:Why don't they... (1)

Phreakiture (547094) | about 5 months ago | (#46347991)

To do what, exactly?

Re:Why don't they... (1)

justthinkit (954982) | about 5 months ago | (#46348287)

Well, the Smart meters call home, so they could be like a cell tower, no? And it is almost in your house. So the reception should be excellent.

Re:Why don't they... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46348985)

Yeah, but they run at like 2400 baud.

Ham radio bands (0, Flamebait)

ctrl-alt-canc (977108) | about 5 months ago | (#46343337)

Ham radio operators have a lot of space [wikipedia.org] allocated on the UHF/SHF bands. It is quite diffifcult to justify this allocation, given the fact that these frequencies are mostly left unused (if you do not believe this, just turn on a spectrum analyzer and give a look). Reallocating a part of these frequencies to wireless carriers could bring benefits to the whole US population, reducing the digital divide.

Re:Ham radio bands (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343381)

Unless of course you hand it to verizon, who'll just sit on it and assault anyone trying to operate a radio for "illegal" use of airwaves.

Re:Ham radio bands (-1, Flamebait)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 months ago | (#46343435)

Yeah, but the hams all think that when the apocalypse comes, they'll save the human race.

Re:Ham radio bands (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343515)

Shortwave/VHF bands allocated to them should be enough for this purpose. UHF/SHF allocations have been in the past justified as "experimentation" but, to be fair, it is more than twenty years that I do not see anything new invented by a radio amateur that predates an innovation coming from industry or academics.

Re:Ham radio bands (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343667)

It's not our fault that you're both ignorant and stupid.

Re:Ham radio bands (2)

Larry_Dillon (20347) | about 5 months ago | (#46346877)

You seem to forget that many academics and people in industry are also amateur operators or got their start as amateur operators. The current innovations are in SDR (software defined radio), DSP (digital signal processing) and mesh networks. Did you know that hams can operate 802.11 wireless gear at higher power and different frequencies under the FCC part 97 rules, versus the regular part 15 unlicensed operation?

Also, much of the spectrum allocation is governed by international treaty, so we can't always act unilaterally on spectrum. We need to keep these narrow slices of spectrum open for future innovation.

Re:Ham radio bands (5, Insightful)

Ozoner (1406169) | about 5 months ago | (#46343523)

This is a spiteful and meaningless troll.

The record shows that Hams have repeatedly provided emergency communications when it's really needed.
Thousands of Hams regularly volunteer their equipment and time in preparedness exercises.

Re:Ham radio bands (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343581)

sure, in the 70s. portable cell towers ended that.
you're horse driven carriages taking up space on the roads and shitting all over the streets. (splatter from archaic transmitters)

you want to chat with someone in norway? we have the internet.
you want to exchange porn over SSTV? internet.
you want to argue about how jews, gays & blacks are ruining society on 80 meters? 4chan.

Re:Ham radio bands (4, Insightful)

Ozoner (1406169) | about 5 months ago | (#46343735)

Again, you demonstrate that you haven't a clue.

Read the stories behind any big disaster, the New Orleans floods, the Indian ocean and Japan Tsunami.

The mobile phone service is the first to go, mainly because of cheap construction and lack of generator backup.

The crucial issue for emergency communications, is having people available who have suitable equipment and who actually know how to set it up and use it.

To be efficient with HF radio gear you need to use it daily. Learning what frequencies, what procedures, how to build and tune a makeshift antenna, how to arrange power-supplies, generators, etc.

Re:Ham radio bands (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343959)

Please, can you explain us how UHF/SHF bands allocated to amateur radio service have been useful during the New Orleans floods ?
There is almost nobody transmitting there, and I wonder if the few users have been involved into the emergency operations.

Re:Ham radio bands (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46346097)

Let's see...

There's this: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/9228945/ns/technology_and_science-wireless/t/ham-radio-operators-rescue-after-katrina/#.Uw4J54UiZ8k

Re:Ham radio bands (1)

crypticedge (1335931) | about 5 months ago | (#46350795)

A lot of the HAM activity only really pops up during disasters.

Re:Ham radio bands (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 5 months ago | (#46344157)

" how to arrange power-supplies, generators, etc."

By size DUH!, everyone know you arrange them by size from Left to Right. It was question 35 on my General Exam.

Re:Ham radio bands (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46349307)

Again, you think repeating yourself is a valid argument.

I notice you didn't even dare touch "portable cell towers", because you know that this ended the "HAMs showing up and saving the day". You are citing examples from the distant past or foreign countries. Right now, we are talking about the PRESENT in the UNITED STATES. For every "HAMs provided emergency communication" story, there are more "HAMs setup their equipment and sat around doing nothing, because emergency teams had their own professional setup" stories.

Yes, we know about your "field days" aka "splatter fest". The last time there was one nearby, there were harmonics across the entire spectrum while they were "setting up". I'm sure the FAA was happy that aircraft flying nearby couldn't hear ATC because HAMs were blasting away with outdated & improperly setup equipment.

It's a dead hobby and a waste of resources. You killed internet over powerlines with your whining, now you want to kill cellphones.

Re:Ham radio bands (2)

pacman on prozac (448607) | about 5 months ago | (#46344341)

Look at Raynet [raynet-uk.net] in the UK.

Cell towers require power and connectivity, can't rely on those being there in an emergency.

Re:Ham radio bands (0, Flamebait)

N1EY (817702) | about 5 months ago | (#46344453)

Ham radio is full of no code technicians that wear orange hats. They claim to be experts. Yet, they spend much of their time as handheld radio programmers. Massachusetts has said effectively, "NO MORE!" Ham radio runs the Boston Marathon net. This is the last thing in Mass. RACES has been terminated. Official co-operation with the Government has been effectively concluded. Only private organizations are making any compacts with the ARRL ARES organization. -------------- From one of the last extras to pass code.

Re:Ham radio bands (2)

rk (6314) | about 5 months ago | (#46349375)

Oh, God, spare me the you ain't a ham until you can do 20 WPM code holier-than-thou attitude. That's the attitude that's going to kill amateur radio, and why at age 46 I'm considered a young man by most hams. I got a no-code license and had no interest in learning Morse until I got on the HF bands and got to experience firsthand WHY it was useful. I'm still not particularly good at it, but I'm learning and hope to be really good at it one day. But if I had to learn code, I'd probably have still said "to hell with it."

what records? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46346327)

I don't see any records. no news stories about ham radios and the thousands of hams that regularly volunteer their equipment and time in preparedness exercises. just asking.

my satellite phone stayed up during hurricane Sandy and the big earthquake on the east coast.

Re:Ham radio bands (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 months ago | (#46349095)

Yes, they volunteer. I spoke with more than one Katrina "volunteer" who was turned away from the site. Sure, one ham can call another, and have that one call 911 and hope the information gets back to the people that actually matter. But the actual responders don't want them underfoot. Many of the preparedness exercises are held by volunteer organizations, but when a real emergency hits, they are turned away. How many preparedness exercises you refer to were organized by FEMA or the National Guard? You know, the people on the ground when the big ones hit, throwing up roadblocks and turning away self-styled survivalists with radios.

Re:Ham radio bands (1)

Ozoner (1406169) | about 5 months ago | (#46343499)

Actually the Hams don't have much bandwidth on useable frequencies.
It's the age old story, the larger alocations are at frequencies that no one wants.

And of course the ham bands belong to the people, not to big business.
Are you the type of person who would be happy with selling off all our parks ?

Re:Ham radio bands (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343575)

Are you the type of person who would be happy with selling off all our parks ?

The park is only used by two old dudes and they are dicks to everyone else who tries to go to the park.

Re:Ham radio bands (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 5 months ago | (#46354059)

You're thinking of CB. HAMS are very respectful and encouraging. There are just too many other things competing for the interests of potential new amateurs.

Re:Ham radio bands (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 5 months ago | (#46344027)

You can instead see that space as an area which is open for everyone to experiment in, sometimes those areas are useful for trying out various technologies without the risk of interference to commercial services.

Most of the bandwidth consumption today are from smartphones where the users are surfing the web, which means that it's not really any productive use. There are ways to lower the load on the phone networks, and some of them are spontaneous - like wireless access points available on restaurants and other public places. The cells for wireless access points are relatively small, so even though that band is crowded it's generally not a problem with interference.

This also brings up an alternate way of mitigating the bandwidth problem, and that is to create smaller cells for the mobile phone networks in "hot" areas like shopping centers and transportation hubs.

It's when the resources are limited that invention of new more efficient ways are inspired.

Re:Ham radio bands (2)

Larry_Dillon (20347) | about 5 months ago | (#46346641)

No, they have small slices across the spectrum. We need to keep those slices open to experimentation because of the need to be able to experiment and test a concept at different frequencies. Closing this off to experimentation stifles innovation.

Those frequencies are used all of the time but you may not be able to pick them up because of the lack of sensitivity of you receiver/antenna or they aren't being used in your area when you're listening.

On top of that, they're used for emergency communication. In my state (Montana) ham radio operators stepped up and help to save millions of dollars in property damage and quite possibly lives by allowing fire fighters to coordinate their efforts when the county's repeaters got burnt down. This was recognized by state government and hams were exempted from distracted driving laws so they could continue to operate mobile.

Meanwhile In Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343339)

There's plenty of bandwidth to go around in most of the spectrum, but any of it being available rather than "oh no so clogged" is a chance for startups to possibly one day provide competition to the big four (whom are trying to become a bigger two). Or, horror of horrors, municipalities....

LTE for the win (2)

David Jao (2759) | about 5 months ago | (#46343359)

The solution is simple. We should move everything over to LTE. It's far more efficient than any other alternatives, often by several orders of magnitude. Deactivate the old legacy networks and switch to LTE for everything. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

Re:LTE for the win (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343393)

LTE is great but offers little coverage so it needs lots of cell sites with their backhaul infrastructure.
This may not be economically feasable in low subsciber density areas.
Besides that some people want to use their mobile phones for, you know, voice calls. Something that very few LTE phones do.

Re: LTE for the win (1)

David Jao (2759) | about 5 months ago | (#46343557)

I expect that the cost and scarcity of spectrum, not infrastructure hardware, will be the main driver of economic costs. It makes sense to leverage the most efficient technology even if the hardware costs are higher. Traditional voice service simply has to die. VoIP over LTE provides equivalent functionality. That means Skype, Google Hangouts, SIP, or whatever. I'm sure a company like Verizon can easily implement transparent VoIP over their own networks to emulate traditional phone service.

Re: LTE for the win (1)

crypticedge (1335931) | about 5 months ago | (#46350913)

They already do in most cases now. DSL/POTS are the only places they don't at this point. Cell and FIOS is entirely VOIP

Re:LTE for the win (1)

Phreakiture (547094) | about 5 months ago | (#46348041)

That LTE phones don't use LTE for voice is clearly a software problem. Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and a myriad SIP applications are all able to route voice traffic over IP, and that can be routed over LTE with existing phones. Getting the main voice app to do that should be a software patch.

Re:LTE for the win (1)

sir-gold (949031) | about 5 months ago | (#46361771)

Many phones already support this, it's called VoLTE. However, it also requires support from the network itself as well, I think at&t and verizon support it, I know t-mobile doesn't.

Re:LTE for the win (1)

sir-gold (949031) | about 5 months ago | (#46361821)

LTE's coverage has little to do with the LTE technology itself, and more to do with the very high frequencies that are usually used for LTE, because the lower frequencies were already in use (the higher the frequency is, the shorter the range and wall penetration will be)

Once the older technologies like EDGE and HSPA are deactivated, it will free up the lower frequencies for LTE, and LTE's range and wall penetration ability will automatically improve

Re:LTE for the win (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343397)

but that would also deactivate 70% of what the NSA/CIA/MI5+6 backed by the israelis with their people in telecoms and "defense" have collaborated on since they got Congress to block the AT&T ( 20% cap for State-shareholding) deal with the Japanese back before the WTC demolition, wouldn't it?

Lesson to be learned from faux-free-market (as espoused by the "west") economics... how horribly inefficient those yanks are, Who knows what theyre up to with the NAFTA-FTA-TPP swindle?

Re:LTE for the win (1)

hypergreatthing (254983) | about 5 months ago | (#46344717)

LTE is already behind. But yes, in order to keep up with usage and utilization, more efficient communication methods are needed.
That and the latest news from carriers seems to be their solution in fixing the problem will be to provide their base stations with greater banwidth to handle the LTE traffic. If anything that suggests that they're sitting on their ass raking in cash and being slow to react to their customer's demands. They can claim there isn't enough airwave bandwidth, but when their solution is to upgrade their base station's connection that seems to be a smokescreen.
I wouldn't doubt if claiming that there's not enough airwave bandwidth is just a ploy to carve up the market between 4 different companies to maintain their dominance.
It's similar to the shilling given to google fiber. If telcos and cable providers would invest in their own infrastructure, there's no reason why google fiber's approach wouldn't work for them too.

Spectrum owners would not want more allocated (1)

aberglas (991072) | about 5 months ago | (#46343371)

If companies have paid billions for spectrum, then the last thing that they want is more to be allocated which will simply reduce the value of their asset. Tight spectrum means one can charge more for 4G, with less competition. There must be some fierce lobbying going on.

Does anybody know how much spectrum below and above 1Gig (say) is actually available of telephony, in the USA and Australia? It seems like it is well under 10% of the available.

Re:Spectrum owners would not want more allocated (1)

Ozoner (1406169) | about 5 months ago | (#46343535)

TV is by far the biggest user.

If we had continued with a universal broad-band fiber network (aka NBN) it would have been possible to switch off free-to-air television.

Of course big media was terrified of exactly that.

Re:Spectrum owners would not want more allocated (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 5 months ago | (#46344147)

And force everyone to pay monthly for all TV. Finally getting those damn freeloaders from watching TV for free.

Re:Spectrum owners would not want more allocated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46346371)

That's alway the first thing the carriers want to do, kill broadcast TV.
Because, let's take away the most efficient way of letting everyone watch and just let them pay to stream it thousands to millions of times in parallel.
Killing broadcast TV is the absolute opposite of efficient bandwidth use.

Re:Spectrum owners would not want more allocated (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 5 months ago | (#46346819)

The way to make broadcast more efficient is by forcing TV stations to actually spend money. They need multiple lower power transmitters across the coverage area instead of a single Megawatt station blasting as hard as possible. Tat way you could get far more TV stations on the same amount of bandwidth. But TV stations already are all about milking every penny possible without upgrading. Most TV stations refused to update to HD until the analog sunset was about 12 months away.

Spectrum should be rented (2)

shentino (1139071) | about 5 months ago | (#46343457)

Spectrum should be owned by the public and rented on an annual basis to the private sector to the highest bidder.

This brings in competition that will keep companies from buying it and then sitting on their ass doing nothing with it.

Re:Spectrum should be rented (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343519)

Same as land, and any other finite natural resource, all should be owned by the public and rented.

Re:Spectrum should be rented (1)

spacepimp (664856) | about 5 months ago | (#46344769)

It is that way already in the US. Cable co's leased lots of spectrum and sat on it. If it is cheaper than having to compete they will do it.

Re:Spectrum should be rented (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46344797)

In this day and age, why can't spectrum be sold dynamically based on (i) frequency band, (ii) geographic location, (iii) Tx power, (iv) duration of use (v) time of day.

Computing infrastructure ought to be able to conduct on-line auctions for micropayments for potential users of the airwaves.

This would be a whole lot better than the 19th century practice of lobbyists sitting in a DC venue staking claims on a piece of paper for years on end.

Re:Spectrum should be rented (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | about 5 months ago | (#46346091)

Instead of the highest bidder, why not making all infrastructure accessible, with cost associated to traffic and bonuses for the amount of work done on the infrastructure itself? Big players can stay big leveraging the amount of work done, little players can pop up everywhere, every hotspot can be configured to offer guest access, so airwaves are used for those actually travelling, all the rest get wifi to the nearest eth hub.

Part of the answer... (3, Insightful)

jonwil (467024) | about 5 months ago | (#46343475)

Introduce a "use it or loose it" rule for spectrum allocations. Stop carriers from buying spectrum to sit on it or sell it around and around with no-one actually using it.

high prices work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343505)

Charging high prices for spectrum works well at ensuring spectrum gets used. Yes, the cost gets passed on to the consumer, effectively making it a tax, but the spectrum gets used.

Re:high prices work (1)

sjames (1099) | about 5 months ago | (#46348483)

Non-transferable renting would also work. Sunk costs are easier to ignore than ongoing ones.

Re:Part of the answer... (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | about 5 months ago | (#46345919)

Sounds good. But what if they are creative? I could make a bs use case for spectrum. Compared to the cost of the spectrum itself, underutilizing it (or using it for a BS purpose) would be cheap.

Spectrum Based Currency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343691)

Stop auctioning out the spectrum. If it is a national resource, allocate a bit to everyone, say 10megabytes per month broadcast to everyone in the country per person. This is free speech. Then have more broadcast on local regions. Then we can sell our bandwidth to the broadcasting companies. if we want to, or use it.

We could buy some from our friends too. We would need DVR like capabilities to piece together TV shows, if people don't like NBC, they won't sell them their bandwidth.

This would provide a bit of income to everyone too.
It would also give annonymous receipt of messages (key to free speech) to the masses... so I don't think this will happen.

If we can track who recieves messages, there is no point to having free speech, because nobody will listen.
-Aaron Peterson glowingwire.com

Complete ignorance as to radio spectrum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343771)

I click on this link for a spectrum auction, and get FOXCOMM, SDR, and FPGA tripe. Really? Do you even know what secondary use is (to those yelling about amateur radio.)

This was especially rich:

"it is more than twenty years that I do not see anything new invented by a radio amateur that predates an innovation coming from industry or academics."

Re:Complete ignorance as to radio spectrum (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 5 months ago | (#46344049)

It may not be registered on a ham operator, but it may still be that it is tested by one that is employed by a large corporation.

Why? (1)

saleenS281 (859657) | about 5 months ago | (#46343901)

So just like with wireline, why is this even a problem? Why don't we have a the government owning/controlling the entirety of the spectrum and have service providers simply provide service across ALL bands? Why are we chunking it up for private companies to "own"? It would seem to me that if all spectrum were available, everyone would win. More devices per tower, fewer towers needed, more competition in the marketplace. The simple fact that you have to be able to purchase spectrum to even join the game means the end-game is yet another monopoly.

Re:Why? (1)

Noah SILVA (3457047) | about 5 months ago | (#46344035)

Because, wires and wireless transmissions aren't the same. Commonly used wireless transmissions take up certain frequencies for certain distances, and basically nobody else can use those frequencies in that area then. Two wired transmissions can be run very close together without interfering nearly as much.

Re:Why? (1)

saleenS281 (859657) | about 5 months ago | (#46344063)

Your point being what? The wireless carriers today manage to provide service with the bands chunked up. Allowing more bands from a single tower simply means all those devices are consolidated onto less physical infrastructure, saving everybody money in the process.

Amateur Radio has 56Mhz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46344141)

Amateur Radio has 56MHz of prime spectrum real estate it doesn't need or even use.

There is 420-450Mhz, which propagates very well even though it requires somewhat larger antennae. 30Mhz is three blocks for cellular delivery.

There is another block from 902-928 that maybe 5 amateurs use nationwide.

So, there's 56Mhz, 5 whole blocks and then some, which could grow cellular data delivery capacity by leaps and bounds.

Re:Amateur Radio has 56Mhz (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 5 months ago | (#46344181)

Those allocations do not belong to Amateur Radio. Amateur Radio is a secondary use on both of the bands that you mention.

Re:Amateur Radio has 56Mhz (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46345205)

Actually, on the 900MHz, 2.4GHz and 5Ghz bands Amateur radio is the primary allocation and unlicensed devices are secondary. In theory Hams could amplify WiFi radios to 1500 watts and knock out every hotspot in town. In practice that would be unwise to do anything that would cause interference to all those “secondary users."

There are lots of 900MHz users out there, including pagers and telemetry from things like gas wells and power meters.

5GHz is still somewhat quiet in most areas, but with 802.11AC and dual band routers becoming the mainstream products it’s going to get eaten up too.

Re: Amateur Radio has 56Mhz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46354045)

nope. amateurs are secondary. They ARE licensed, which means they can run higher power and unlicensed users like wifi, etc. have no recourse for interference. Amateurs can be interfered with by the numerous primary users of those bands.

I really wish people would actually read up on frequency allocations, then they would notice that the federal government has more spectrum than all other allocations combined.

Stay out! (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 5 months ago | (#46344143)

Keep your grubby dirty filthy hands off of the Ham Bands.

There is plenty for the commercial world to use, boo hoo they don't like paying for it, if you are making money off of the public airwaves, then you pay dearly for it. I just wish the FCC charged for the use of airwaves yearly to commercial entities. Huge parts of bands are unused but sat on for "future use" by commercial groups.

Re:Stay out! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46348243)

Keep your grubby dirty filthy hands off of the Ham Bands.

Hams are NOT known for their personal hygiene. Those bands are already held by grubby dirty filthy hands, with foul mouths to boot.

For those of you calling for Ham Radio's head (4, Informative)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 5 months ago | (#46344213)

Please take a look here:

http://www.ntia.doc.gov/files/... [doc.gov]

Every block where you see "Amateur" _not_ in all CAPS, Amateur Radio is a secondary use and not the primary licensee. You can see that there are no blocks that are allocated primarily to Amateur use that would be useful to cellular carriers.

420-450, 902-928, 1240-1300 are all government property that Amateurs are allowed to use provided they do not cause interference to the primary licensee.

If government didn't have a use for that spectrum, it certainly would have been sold already - certainly before going through all the trouble to move OTA TV to HD and reclaiming that spectrum.

Seriously, think logically for a minute. If the government could have opened up over 100Mhz of spectrum to cellular carriers by simply displacing a few hams, rather than upending the entire broadcast TV industry, that's the way it would have been done.

Re:For those of you calling for Ham Radio's head (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 5 months ago | (#46347753)

Yup. Hams don't really have all that much spectrum, especially in the regions everybody cares about (low enough in frequency that you don't get multipath/directionality, high enough that you don't need a backpack and whip antenna). Sure, there is some space that others could use, but it isn't all that much.

I think a better solution is getting municipal wifi and such deployed so that people don't need huge gobs of data for when they're just sitting in one place or because they don't want to hand the local cable monopoly $80/month. Short-range wireless combined with wired backbone will get you a lot farther than ANY cellular technology, even if we allocated the entire spectrum to cellular. There will still be a need for cellular, but we can offload a good chunk of the demand with other technologies when you don't really need to be "mobile."

Re:For those of you calling for Ham Radio's head (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46350483)

Why not just reduce the listening area of each station while building more of them? Fewer devices per station means more available spectrum inside that footprint, right?

Not saying that your solution isn't also a good one, I agree with it.

bubblegum casting (-1)

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bubblegum casting (0)

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I feel their pain (1)

b1t r0t (216468) | about 5 months ago | (#46344459)

I just upgraded my wifi to a dual-band base station so that I could use some of that sweet 5GHz space. I live in a suburban neighborhood (built in the '70s, so not even one of those super-cramped Krap Box neighborhoods they make these days) and I can see at least eight other SSIDs at any time.

After all, I've gotta watch those ATSC .ts streams from my MythTV on my laptop.

A better way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46344513)

Excepting perhaps T-Mobile, the cellular industry seems dominated by executives who think rarely and depending too much on marketing. There's simply no way to fill the potential demand for spectrum in high-population-density cities given that the useful bandwidth is limited. For handheld devices, the antennas need to be small, which limits the frequencies to above about 700 MHz. And to get decent building penetration, the frequencies can't be too high, which limits them to about 2 GHz.
Some of the problem could be solved by creating smaller and smaller cells, putting them on every street corner and in the dead center of high-rise buildings. But for that, the installation, backhaul and maintenance costs get high, not to mention keeping those cells up in a major power outage.
One solution that seems little explored is smartcasting. Use bandwidth on digital TV stations to broadcast to smart chips on cell phones. Then the cell companies would have, for no more than bandwidth fees, powerful transmitters on tall towers that are deliberately designed to penetrate urbane areas. Almost everything that multiple users need could be broadcasts, with chips in smartphones knowing what to store. Media feeds, software upgrades, and especially the video sports and news could go out that way. And it could be easily encrypted for paid subscribers.
Smartcasting would not even need to be limited to smartphones. It could also be used in tablets and laptops. Anything that numerous users might want could be available for subscription, paid or free. And if parts of that feed are lost, then and only then could cellular feeds be used to fill in that gaps.
Having the best feeds come with that monthly contract could also be a plus for a cellular company in the marketing wars. And it wouldn't require even a tiny scrap of new spectrum or a single new tower.

Re:A better way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46344675)

Then the cell companies would have, for no more than bandwidth fees, powerful transmitters on tall towers that are deliberately designed to penetrate urbane areas.

If AT&T and Verizon can do the "pay us extra to send data" to Google, Netflix, et. al. why should they get bandwidth only fees? Put the screws to them, just like they do to everyone else.

Some way to unify carrier use of spectrum? (1)

swb (14022) | about 5 months ago | (#46344541)

I wish there was some way to unify the spectrum used by carriers so there wasn't so much wasted spectrum. With 4 major cell carriers you need 4x the spectrum for any given footprint.

Why can't this same total spectrum be used by all the carriers simultaneously, with some kind of back-end accounting determining what proportion of the tower costs are paid by each carrier, depending on subscriber mix?

MVNOs (1)

tepples (727027) | about 5 months ago | (#46345173)

Why can't this same total spectrum be used by all the carriers simultaneously, with some kind of back-end accounting determining what proportion of the tower costs are paid by each carrier

That's sort of how MVNOs already work: one of the big four carriers owns the spectrum and the towers, and a bunch of smaller carriers lease them.

pCell to the rescue? How timely ... (1)

fygment (444210) | about 5 months ago | (#46344627)

The jury may still be out on this due to it's claims of 'unlimited', etc. But have a look:

http://www.kurzweilai.net/new-... [kurzweilai.net]

As a colleague once opined, "There is no more spectrum. It's physics. That's it, that's all."

vast spectrum available (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46345145)

Here in the DFW area at least half of the OTA TV stations are just "infomercials." Why waste this spectrum on TV spam? Why not use it for something useful like watching cat videos on mobes?

unused spectrum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46346287)

nobody is using 902-928 MHz, 1,240-1,300 MHz, 2,300-2,400 MHz or 3,300-3,500 right? Give them to the cell phone operators.

i don't think satellites or telecommunications microwave towers use those frequencies

Re:unused spectrum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46352995)

So basically screw amateur radio operators along with ISM and radar users?

902-928 is well used by Industrial, Scientific, Medical, as well as amateur radio.
2310-2390 is used by satellite radio, 2390-2417 amateur radio.
Have fun getting cell phones to work in the 2417-2450 along side millions of wifi, bluetooth, ISM, etc. devices.

1240-1300 is used by amateurs on a secondary basis, space research and radiolocation on a primary.
3300-3500 is used by amateurs on a secondary basis, radiolocation on a primary basis.

AM/FM (1)

PortHaven (242123) | about 5 months ago | (#46346817)

Is there a region this spectrum is not digital? We could likely fit a thousand digital stations in that same airspace.

Re:AM/FM (1)

TheSync (5291) | about 5 months ago | (#46350351)

AM broadcast spectrum is about 1 MHz, or about 3.5 Mbps using typical digital modulations. AM antennas need to be very long to be very efficient, so realistic mobile devices may only get 1 Mbps or less. Also AM propagates easily, so it will be tough to have small cells with reasonably powered transmitters.

FM is about 20 MHz, or about 70 Mbps theoretically. They also have a long wavelength, but not anywhere as bad as AM, but worse than TV channels 7-13.

Coast guard shutdown NYC weather radio stations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46350319)

In NYC the NOAA weather station has been offline since this past summer. There was a promise to turn it on if there was an event but we've had tornado warnings, blizzards, deadly cold, floods and yet not a peep from the station. Why is it turned off? They claim its causing interference with their new radios. That being said do you honestly think the government can handle dispersal of radio spectrum properly?

T-Band (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46352905)

Start by moving all the public safety users out of the UHF T-Band (470-512 MHz), or at least require them to make the most of the 700mhz spectrum that was allocated solely to them before allowing any new licenses or renewals in that band. Then perhaps look at the utilization of the 800mhz public safety allocations and see how well they're being used and if there is space for any of them in the 700mhz band. If public safety is going to get new allocations without giving any up, that's crap.

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