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The Dirty Business of Assembling WiMAX Spectrum

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the whose-side-you-on-anyway dept.

Wireless Networking 101

go_jesse writes in to make us aware of a MarketWatch article reporting on the battles that WiMAX partners Sprint and Clearwire are fighting — sometimes with one another — to put together enough spectrum to fill in their planned WiMAX coverage map. The problem is that decades ago the FCC passed out licenses in what would become the WiMAX band to schools and non-profits nationwide. Once Sprint began knocking on their doors asking to license their spectrum — once they began seeing dollar signs in a forgotten resource — dozens, then hundreds of these organizations applied to the FCC to renew long-dormant licenses. The FCC has granted the first of these requests and Sprint has asked it to reconsider. Confusingly, Sprint's partner Clearwire has sided with the schools and non-profits. The article sheds light in one messy corner of the battle to provide a "third pipe" into US consumers' homes.

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101 comments

holy shit (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20805875)

holy shit, it's the first fucking post!

HypeMAX (0, Troll)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 6 years ago | (#20805885)

Is it HypeMAX or WiMAX?

I forget.

It's proponents will tell you it will bring a NEW GOLDEN AGE.

Our society, and particular THE CHILDREN, will be more connected and
of course that must be a good thing.

They ignore that all other efforts to build a massive wireless data
infrastructure have failed to find sufficient customers even when they
make it easy and fairly cheap. Most people simply do not have that
much of a need for the technology or MetroCom wouldn't be bankrupt.

This is a technology that will remain mired in the mud and never goes anywhere.

Re:HypeMAX (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#20805959)

"This is a technology that will remain mired in the mud and never goes anywhere."

That's eh, funny - WiMAX seems to be doing pretty well in China... [zte.com.cn]

Re:HypeMAX (1)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806899)

I'd like to see some interviews of regular users of this service and real numbers. Instead all I see is marketing fluff and PR. TFA you referenced sounds like contingency planning. Just signing agreements on how things would proceed if it ever goes anywhere.

Re:HypeMAX (2, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806047)

They ignore that all other efforts to build a massive wireless data infrastructure have failed to find sufficient customers even when they make it easy and fairly cheap.

Huh? WiMAX may be over-hyped, but when has someone ever created an effective, ubiquitous, highspeed wireless data infrastructure and then offered it cheaply? I don't know what "MetroCom" you're referring to, but I'm sure that no one has ever offered a good wireless data network anywhere I've lived. Verizon's data services are kind of passable, assuming you don't mind being stuck with Verizon's service and a proprietary wireless receiver, but they're not that great. And they have customers.

Re:HypeMAX (1)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806263)

Verizon like all other cellular data services, is riding on the coattails of their voice. At this point, data is a pimple on the butt of voice. When voice infrastructure is all digital, why not piggyback the data customers on the same equipment. More money. This is quite different from building out a separate infrastructure for just data users, which is what HypeMAX proposes to it's investors. By the way I was thinking of Ricochet. See the Wikipedia entry for Ricochet internet service.

Re:HypeMAX (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806573)

So you think wireless internet is doomed to fail because: over 10 years ago, before the internet had really became mainstream, someone tried to sell wireless internet at 56k speeds and it failed. Therefore, there is currently no demand and commercial success is not possible?

Re:HypeMAX (1)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806843)

I see. I'm supposed to convince YOU that someone ELSE'S hand-waving business case actually makes sense. No thanks. If there were a crying need for wireless data, the cellular companies would already be seeing tower overload for existing data services. The fact that they aren't should tell you something. MORE! FASTER! BETTER! would be driving WiMAX forward. But it isn't happening. The bulk of phones being sold now, and plans in use, do not include data.

Re:HypeMAX (1)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 6 years ago | (#20807163)

Ever think maybe that had something to do more with the absurd terms of service and not the actual demand for the technology? I'd really like a vacation to space, but the current company wants $1 million + to do it. If the price came down to near that of an airline ticket i'd be all over it. I also don't have a data plan for similar reasons (absurdly high cost, usage restrictions, bad coverage, and horrible contract lock-in).

That said I know a few people that have tried a certain wireless internet service that they have come to affectionately call "Crapwire" due to its unreliability. Then again, getting some more bandwidth and towers might fix that problem too.

Re:HypeMAX (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808227)

I'm the same. Cell companies charge far too much for their data plans. Like £1 a MB. Ridiculous! I'd love to be able to just take my laptop with me and browse/play online games wherever I want. I can currently do the browsing on my phone (which the company pays for anyway), and I could use my phone as a modem for my laptop but it would be taking the piss a bit if I was constantly MUDding using my company mobile as a modem :P

Re:HypeMAX (1)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808761)

Its strange that 10 years ago I went out and bought a Psion/Viacom FAx modem that let me hook up my then ultra modern Ericsson T10 to my laptop, I spent a good year using that card with a couple of 0800 internet providers (Orange were not charging for 0800 numbers at the time if I remember) giving me practically free mobile internet access, then it all changed, for data you were charged extra (quite a significant amount) and 0800 numbers ceased to be free. There is nothing like a step backwards to put things into perspective.

OT in the same vein, has anyone noticed that in the UK, since they introduced competition for directory enquiries (replacing 192 with 118XXX services) those services have deteriorated and are much more expensive than the original? Not to mention all the free offerings have disappeared! - dial 0800600900 (talking pages) for a really good laugh, its a free number that used to offer a directory service, now it includes a message saying it has been bought / moved and you can dial 118XXX for the improved service.... at 49p per connection and 13p per minute.

Re:HypeMAX (1)

Mycroft_VIII (572950) | more than 6 years ago | (#20807829)

Not many will pay what the cell companies charge. I looked into it and discovered that it would cost more than $50 a month for barely better than isdn speeds (under ideal conditions, mine are far from ideal) with a very low cap (something like 1 gig a month) and a min 2 year contract. Oh yeah and another $150 or so in hardware and set-up fees (though there was a $25 mail in rebate on the hardware, and of course you always get those /sarcasm/).
    I suspect this sort of price set up just might explain the lack of uptake.
However there is a local wireless outfit that seems to be doing o.k. with more reasonable rates (merely expensive, not outrageous).

Mycroft

The US is just a tad behind... (1)

Dobeln (853794) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809927)

...here in Sweden we now have virtually complete 3G coverage, and 3G phones and 3G computer modems are selling like hotcakes. It will catch on in the US as well once you have good availability of broadband-speed solutions (I.e. forget EDGE) at decent flatrate prices.

Re:HypeMAX (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 6 years ago | (#20810299)

There are several reasons why people don't use the existing cell networks for data:
  • Cell carriers aren't using standardized hardware that is (generally) built into various devices. Data has to go through either a cell phone or a special add-on card that sticks out of your laptop, making it inconvenient.
  • It's generally expensive
  • It's generally slow
  • Coverage is bad
  • The whole thing seems "complicated" to your average Joe, and he doesn't want to deal with it.

However, a large percentage of computers sold today are laptops, and most of those laptop users would love to have wireless internet access wherever they go. If someone actually provided wireless internet access that was so cheap, simple, fast, and had such good coverage that you could always be connected everywhere, people would use that service.

Stop discriminating against corporations! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20805889)

I'm tired of Slashdot discriminating against perfectly fine corporations like Sprint, AT&T, and Microsoft. Corporations are people too! They;re just trying to get the best price so they can pass the value on to the consumer.

Vote George W. Bush in 2008 to keep global warming liberals out of office!

Write in the man!

--
Global warming is a bunch of hot air.

Re:Stop discriminating against corporations! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20805905)

They'll be people too as soon as they're accountable for their actions in the same way that people are.

Re:Stop discriminating against corporations! (1)

cdrdude (904978) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806019)

Vote George W. Bush in 2008 to keep global warming liberals out of office!
Of course he wouldn't do that; it would be a third term which is prohibited by the Constitution. And we all know that our president would never even think of breaking/ignoring the law...

Re:Stop discriminating against corporations! (4, Funny)

mOdQuArK! (87332) | more than 6 years ago | (#20807191)

Hey Bub, if the voting machines say Bush gets the vote, then no goddamn piece of paper should get in the way of reelecting the man. Do you support America or are you some kind of terrorist?

Re:Stop discriminating against corporations! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20809181)


You got the rhetoric down, but forgot to link to "Bush / Cheney 08 Why should the laws stop us *now*" bumper sticker?

http://www.lisaandjacob.com/uploaded_images/Bumper_sticker.gif [lisaandjacob.com]

Although personally I think "
Bush / Cheney 08
The laws don't apply to us anyway"
scans better.

If you want a nerdier and subtler way to say it, try Goats.com's infamous t-shirt
"Republicans for Voldemort" http://www.goats.com/store/tshirts.html [goats.com]

We'll pay in the end (1)

Kryptonian Jor-El (970056) | more than 6 years ago | (#20805897)

IF the schools and such are granted these extensions and Sprint has to pay big bucks to license the spectrum, who in the end pays for it? In the end we're the ones that get screwed

Re:We'll pay in the end (2, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 6 years ago | (#20805973)

Yeah, but we're going to get screwed by the telecoms either way. May as well have them paying the schools in the meantime.

Re:We'll pay in the end (1)

Elise DiPace (1153487) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806257)

Right, just think of the extra price as taxes!

Re:We'll pay in the end (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806599)

No, I'm saying they're going to charge "the extra price" anyway. Or do you really think that, when these companies save a buck, they pass the savings on to you?

Re:We'll pay in the end (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 6 years ago | (#20807213)

Or do you really think that, when these companies save a buck, they pass the savings on to you? Only if they have competition. But: Two companies are NOT competition. It's oligopoly.

It could be much worse (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806023)

the spectrum was already given. If the FCC takes it back without compensation, then it pretty much says that the feds can do it to our lands. Far better that these companies ahve to pay money for what they do not own, then to steal.

Re:It could be much worse (1)

boriquajake (966415) | more than 6 years ago | (#20815551)

Who in the hell thought is was a good idea to just hand billions of dollars worth of spectrum over to these people in the first place? Did anybody really think that the local chapter of Bob Barker's Spay those Critters Club was going to effectively use valuable spectrum? The schools and NPOs let their licences lapse and I am supposed to feel bad for them? Wow, yet another brilliant resource redistribution scheme that didn't work out, what a freaking shock.

Re:It could be much worse (1)

Arterion (941661) | more than 6 years ago | (#20817227)

Wow, yet another brilliant resource redistribution scheme that didn't work out, what a freaking shock.
Yeah. They should be taking money directly out of the rich people's incomes and putting the into the poor folks'. All this stuff in between is just a mess.

FCC is so useless (1)

SkySerf (1160407) | more than 6 years ago | (#20805909)

I don't see how any company/organization has a right to claim to a spectrum and who gave the FCC ownership of all of them and the ability to hand them out to the highest bidders? Politicians making laws about stuff they don't understand but see a dollar sign on. On a lighter note I declare myself owner of all the ocean front property on mars (once there are oceans) that way in a few hundred years my kids can be filthy stinking rich as they sell off the best pieces on 1/2 acre lots.

Silly 7-digiter... (1, Troll)

Khyber (864651) | more than 6 years ago | (#20805955)

"Politicians making laws about stuff they don't understand but see a dollar sign on."

Silly 7-digit /.er talking about something they don't understand but uses anyways to take a swipe at politicians. The FCC regulates usage of the spectrum so things don't interfere with each other and cause nasty things to happen. You wouldn't want my 47MHz cordless phone interfering with your 47MHz radio-controlled mini-car, would you? You don't want my 2.4GHz cordless phone screwing up your 2.4GHz wireless router's data transmission, would you?

Sit down, be quiet, let the big boys talk.

Re:Silly 7-digiter... (1)

SkySerf (1160407) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806033)

regulate? you mean profit off, I am well aware of what the FCC does.

Re:Silly 7-digiter... (1)

DDLKermit007 (911046) | more than 6 years ago | (#20807487)

You mean like how my wireless router, and phone even usually crap crap out when a microwave turns on?

Re:FCC is so useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20806065)

It's good to see that you have absolutely nothing standing in the way of your opinions, not even basic thought processes.

Re:FCC is so useless (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806161)

I don't see how any company/organization has a right to claim to a spectrum and who gave the FCC ownership of all of them and the ability to hand them out to the highest bidders?

Well it kind of makes sense that the federal government would regulate the use of radio frequencies. Technically, the radio spectrum is considered public. Some company can license a specific portion of the spectrum, but the ownership is still public. Doing it that way makes sense and works. You can't just have people running amok and creating interference, disrupting everyone else.

The only real problem is if the government is exercising its control of the radio spectrum in opposition to the public good. There's an argument to be made that "selling to the highest bidder" is in line with the public good because the money can be used for other public programs. However, I don't think this is the case when talking about building infrastructure. Any kind of serious and necessary infrastructure should be semi-public and heavily regulated (if not public). In my mind, this includes data infrastructure, both wired and wireless.

Back in the day... (1)

MacDork (560499) | more than 6 years ago | (#20805929)

Apple wants wireless for everyone. [electronic-school.com] Let me guess, some greedy corporation (Sprint) wants to monopolize more public resources for their own gain. Why else would their competition oppose the move? What was open to everyone becomes closed thanks to a redundant "The long dormant, forgotten dormant frequency" rant on Slashdot frontpage...
  • Astroturf Slashdot
  • ???
  • Profit!!!

But maybe I'm just jaded.

I first thought this was a case of RTFA... (2, Informative)

Pollux (102520) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806219)

...But what you've just said proves that you didn't even bother to read three sentences into the article summary on Slashdot. You only read the headline and jumped to your own conclusion.

First, here's what you missed from the article summary:

Once Sprint began knocking on their doors asking to license their spectrum -- once they began seeing dollar signs in a forgotten resource -- dozens, then hundreds of these organizations applied to the FCC to renew long-dormant licenses.

The article itself goes on to explain further how these school districts never used this wireless spectrum, how some didn't even know they owned it, until Verizon came knocking at their door. Only after Verizon came asking for rights to the spectrum did the schools and non-profits step up and try to renew licenses that they already let expire.

On the one hand, these businesses are playing dirty pool and are only stopping Verizon's development of that wireless spectrum because of the money. On the other hand, that slice of the wireless spectrum (2.5 GHz band) was specifically reserved for school & non-profit use, and was never meant to be utilized for commercial development.

My personal opinion: let Verizon have it. Verizon's attempting to buy out a slice of the spectrum to develop a privately-owned wireless network. While they expect everyone to buy Verizon equipment to exclusively operate on that frequency, chances are the market will prefer public-access frequencies that are more widely available and cheaper. Let them waste their money.

Re:Back in the day... (1)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806777)

Apple wanted the UNII band, and they got it. 5.3 and 5.8GHz are now available for unlicensed use, but instead vendors are churning out more 2.4GHz devices.

of pipes and tubes (2, Insightful)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806039)

WiMAX partners Sprint and Clearwire are fighting to put together enough spectrum to fill in their planned WiMAX coverage map.

Given that they can't even fill in their cell service coverage map, I can't imagine this is going well at all.

Phased Arrays (5, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806059)

When are phased array [wikipedia.org] digital radio networks going to be cheap, fast and reliable enough that "spectrum" is no longer a bottleneck? Different signals can be coded by their 3D location, which is exclusive of other signals by completely familiar physical reality, so there's no need for registration of frequencies other than that required by the signaling protocol itself.

No more treating bandwidth as a limited resource. Other implications are the FCC losing most of its legitimate role, except maybe just to test and regulate health effects of the radiation - and maybe the locations of ugly transceivers. Since the expense of owning and operating a transceiver would drop, the industry wouldn't be in the hands of just the big telcos, which all have mutual interests that are at odds with those of most consumers.

that's backwards (1)

m2943 (1140797) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806109)

If we open up the spectrum and phased arrays are needed to improve reception, then companies will fill the need quickly and efficiently. If we don't open up the spectrum first, there may simply be no economic incentive to develop cheap versions of these kinds of technologies for consumer use.

Re:that's backwards (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806261)

What? We don't need to "open up the spectrum" if we use phased arrays. That's the point: phased arrays don't need reserved bands for exclusive signaling.

The limit on developing phased arrays is that the funders of R&D are already invested for $billions (and lots of political deals) into the reserved frequency model. Which means smaller innovators can't afford to enter their billionaires' club and compete with them. So they're not funding phased array techs that open up everything to everyone who wants it.

Re:that's backwards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20814559)

Which means smaller innovators can't afford to enter their billionaires' club and compete with them. So they're not funding phased array techs that open up everything to everyone who wants it.

Yes, and by getting rid of the "reserved frequency model", then (and only then) is there an actual need for phased arrays, hence funding, hence R&D and low-cost products.

Re:that's backwards (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20815201)

No, not "only then". There is a need for phased arrays because of the limits of single frequency signaling and its registration requirements, even before those requirements are eliminated.

This isn't a real chicken/egg problem, even though there is one possible circular dependency. The phased arrays have other reasons for demand than just replacing the registration system.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

sg3000 (87992) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806131)

> When are phased array digital radio networks going to be cheap, fast and reliable enough that "spectrum" is no longer a bottleneck?

Phased arrays in the terms of beam-forming are part of the WiMAX Forum profiles, but service providers have been slow (until recently) in requiring it in the base stations (the feature is mandatory for the end devices).

The industry is talking about adopting Spatial Multiplexing (allowing for the same channel to be targeted to specific users in 3D space), which will improve the data rate even more, allowing sector bandwidth to increase to 100 Mbps or more. However, since access spectrum is a constrained resource, I don't think you'll ever get to the point of not needing licensed spectrum and eliminating the FCC.

It's kind of like the highways. You can widen them, but you'll never eliminate the traffic since the number of commuters will increase since the highways allow people to move further away from the city.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806243)

Phased arrays can do better than just distinguish different noisy transmitters. They can distinguish different signalers on the same frequency, without the bottleneck. That eliminates the need to segregate signalers by frequency, because they're segregated by position.

Imagine you've got a building full of RFID tags, each with a different code. Then imagine you've got a pair of RFID detectors, which can act like stereo eyes, and see each tag's position in 3D space, by measuring the different time it takes for each tag's light to get to each detector. So now you're imagining a 3D building full of RFID tags. Now imagine each tag isn't a static code to read, but a dynamic "display" in the RF spectrum. That simple phased array of RFID detectors can now detect data transmitted in separate channels, separated by the position of each transmitter. If each detector is itself a phased array, like your eyes' actual retinas are, then the two different images of all the transmitters can be compared for parallax, for even more precise definition of the different channels.

No need for any exclusion registry. Extra data "bandwidth" in the same actual width of band, just by adding more transmitters. The key is lowering the cost of each radio node to cheap enough that whole arrays of them are still affordable. That economic has already arrived, with WiFi very cheap once all the support electronics are shared by all the detectors in the array.

This is the direction all radio networks should be moving in. If the main funders of R&D weren't invested by $billions into the spectrum registry, and the FCC didn't need that registry to exert content control, then we'd probably already be there. But the tech is inevitable. The more people who understand its possibilities, the sooner we'll get it.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806397)

When are phased array digital radio networks going to be cheap, fast and reliable enough that "spectrum" is no longer a bottleneck?

About the same time that cars require no energy input to work...

Directivity (ie. phased array) is good, and can improve speed and spectrum utilization, but it's just one more technology that improves communications. It's not a game changer in the slightest.

The only real possibility of deregulation is in extremely high frequencies, where high directivity and line-of-sight propagation will prevent it from interfering with others on the same frequency (think: optical). Once you get down to frequencies that are popular, and in common use today, no magic any antenna can do will prevent it from propagating normally, and causing noise for (physically) adjacent users of the same frequency.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806437)

It's not magic. Phased arrays can distinguish between different transmitters even at frequencies used for radio networks now, with sensible R&D investment. There's nothing "magic" about the higher frequencies that makes them unique for use by phased arrays. It's just a matter of improving the arrays and the parallel signal processing required to use them for this application.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#20813789)

Phased arrays can distinguish between different transmitters even at frequencies used for radio networks now

There's lots of things you can do in ideal circumstances.

With a small number of transmitters, that might work, but for every transmitter, the noise level goes up, and there's nothing any kind of antenna can do about it.

There's nothing "magic" about the higher frequencies that makes them unique for use by phased arrays.

Indeed there is. Higher frequencies are much more directional, that will cut down on adjacent interference from nearby transmitters on the same frequencies. With lower frequencies, multipath interference becomes a major problem.

It's just a matter of improving the arrays and the parallel signal processing required to use them for this application.

You can keep improving signal processing all you want. It will only slightly improve the situation. It's going to be an extremely long time before it's good enough to pick one-part signal out of 999-parts noise from adjacent transmitters. And by the time that happens, you can bet bandwidth requirements will have risen significantly, again.

It's mainly people that are ignorant of communications theory that leads to such baseless sensationalized claim.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20814989)

You're not even reading the other posts where I debunk all you complaints. When you understand comms theory, and more importantly recent engineering that exploits it, then come back and try talking with your superior air. Until then, all I could possibly learn from you would be stubborn ignorance. To which I turn a blind eye.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

jwo7777777 (100313) | more than 6 years ago | (#20826783)

Doc is right. The phased array stuff works even with multiple transmitters on the same freq because of the ability of signal processing to pick out the slight variations in signal (over time) arriving at each of the receiver's antennas. It is reduced to a problem of sufficient processing capability for a given array and the accuracy of knowledge of geographic positions of the receiver's array elements with respect to wavelength,element spacing and quantization size and errors of the processing chain.

So, if your elements are real close together, and you are guessing at just exactly how far apart they are, and you are using a small wavelength, you better be able to sample the crap out of the incoming signals with a high accuracy 456783 bit converter and a beowulf cluster of optical DSPs.

Disclaimer: I have no idea what I am talking about.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20828475)

Which is why you're babbling about DSP, when phased arrays actually use more actual signals, then apply some necessary DSP to compare those multiple incoming signals.

Slashdot: a cesspool of conceited technobabblers who don't know enough what they're talking about to recognize someone who does.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

calidoscope (312571) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806683)

Directivity (ie. phased array) is good, and can improve speed and spectrum utilization, but it's just one more technology that improves communications. It's not a game changer in the slightest.


In an ideal world, phased arrays could be a game changer, the big advantage is steerable nulls. In the real world, multipath messes up nulls. Some of the more detailed analysis of propagation at 2.4GHz sounds a lot like ionospheric propagation in the HF bands (3 - 30MHz).

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

GreyWolf3000 (468618) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806799)

The components required for phased array antennas are very expensive and all but require military contracts to obtain. When said components open up for the civilian sector, perhaps some commercial uses can be developed.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

F34nor (321515) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806999)

Not really, fractal antennas can act both as a phased array and a whip antenna across multiple bandwidths simultaneously.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

GreyWolf3000 (468618) | more than 6 years ago | (#20816479)

Good point...I was mostly thinking of components like digital ICs which add programmable delay in the combining stage of patch elements in order to account for different look angles.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808733)

They're expensive because they're new, and because people think they're too expensive. A mass market app changes everything. When enough people realize that they can jump us past the jail of single channels per frequency, that chicken/egg problem will get eaten for breakfast.

Re:Phased Arrays (2, Insightful)

NeuralAbyss (12335) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806841)

The Shannon limit still applies. It's not a solution to all the problems of RF signalling..

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808691)

Of course the Shannon limit per frequency applies. But it's irrelevant when many channels can signal on the same frequency, separated by position. Unless you can see only one object in a room that's colored red, this should be easy to understand.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

Jott42 (702470) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809293)

But you are disregarding multipath: the energy will be reflected and refracted at these frequencies, and thus the analogy with vision falls apart. In outer space you are correct (when using very large arrays), but in an indoor environment there are lots of reflections, and thus the different links will interfere with each other.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809605)

But the phased arrays themselves are tools to minimize multipath noise, as are other signal processing techniques. Human vision itself would suffer from a lot of confusion from specular reflection of colors onto other objects if we didn't have lots of wetware to cope with it.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

Jott42 (702470) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809847)

As you insist I must point out that your analogy between the human vision and phased arrays is not a very good one - I would even say that it is a very bad one. If you are comparing multipath noise in the visual spectra with the one at RF-frequncies, you must ever have looked at a impulse response from an indoor channel at all. And one more thing: Phased arrays in themselves does not cope with multipaht, MIMO technology does.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809989)

Phased arrays are one kind of MIMO [wikipedia.org] antenna.

Your response to my comparison of multipath in human vision to that in radio networks is also shows limited vision. They are both internal reflections along multiple paths of the same frequencies that intelligent arrays of receivers can distinguish into their original separate sources.

You're thinking too much inside the box. If you don't want to try making it work, don't bother, but don't try to force your limits on others who could make it work.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

Jott42 (702470) | more than 6 years ago | (#20810301)

Actually, I am working with "making it work", and that is why I say that human vision and phased arryas has very little to do with each other. Take only the small detail that human vision receptors (analog to the individual antennas in a phased array), is not recording tha phase of the incoming photons, but only the amplitude. That in itself tells something about the huge limitations of the analogy. In fact, the only antenna that the human eye is reminiscent of is a lens antenna, which is commonly not called a phased array. (Not even in wikipedia. And by the way, the wiki article on MIMO is not very good...)

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20811341)

Actually, having studied the retina and optic tract in the neurology part of my premed undergrad, as well as in my physics minor, and then again in the digital camera company I joined rather than med school, I can tell you that the incident light's phase difference info has artifacts in the waveforms of the retina's neural signals. Those signals are decoded in higher layers of the visual cortex that the optic nerve eventually innervates.

Wikipedia's MIMO article isn't very good (for radio engineers), but the fact is that phased arrays are one kind of MIMO, so that Wikipedia article is sufficient documentation. I think that if you consider how the eye does use plenty of positional difference signals in distinguishing different features in the visual field, you might find your work has access to more existing examples for guidance.

Another example of more primitive phased arrays is the pair of human ears, which use much more extensive postprocessing in the brain to differentiate remote sources despite multipath. Bats excel, but humans have been demonstrated to instinctively use "sonar" when it's available, despite multipath and may other sources of noise and distraction.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

Jott42 (702470) | more than 6 years ago | (#20812129)

First part of your post sounds interesting, do you have any reference? (I can't remember reading anything about it in Kandel och Purves, but it is a couple of years since I read them.) And even so your analogy with the eyes are strained, keep in mind that the eyes are "antennas" with an approximate size of 30000 times the wavelength, it is this very large size which gives them so high directivity. At 2.45 GHz this would equal an antenna array with a diameter of 3600 meters. This is another reason why I do not think that the analogy is good, it is overoptimistic.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20813667)

The most recent reference to the comparative functions of the optic tract (including the retina) was in fact in a "Computer Vision" magazine article I read at the digital camera company in the Spring of 1990. If I get a chance to dig up more bio details from my old (1988) neurology textbook I'll try to post it.

The "eye" is an extremely sensitive optical receiver and processor, an array of much smaller detector cells. Rod cells respond to even single visible photons - realize that vision biochemistry is related to photosynthesis, which is more ancient and therefore "primitive", but still features close to 100% energy efficiency converting photonic power into stored chemistry. Retinal rod and cone cells [blogspot.com] are larger than the ~650nm wavelength of light they detect, but they each have multiple detectors. The arrays we're talking about have ample mechanisms to extract lots of info from incoming visible signals.

But also realize that we don't have to match human visual acuity for phased arrays to distinguish sufficiently separated transmitters. I bet if we looked at the parallax distance necessary for smallish arrays, say 16x16, of the cheapest detectors, we could find that local networks, say within the 100m that a WiFi AP typically covers, could distinguish unique signals among many 802.11b transmitters on the same frequency for a lot less than $2500 (256 * $10). We're looking for something better than "planaria vision", but not much better. That should be obtainable, and probably a more productive route than just upping the power and frequency to centralized, "one eyed" WiMAX. Since WiMAX already uses MIMO, getting full service from WiMAX with phased arrays could finally mean that "the air" is no longer a narrower, single channel with which wires and fibers easily compete in bandwidth delivery.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

Jott42 (702470) | more than 6 years ago | (#20813997)

I am not sure what your last point is: If you implement full MIMO, you are already using all the spatial multiplexing available in the channel (up to the limitation set by the actual number of antennas used. Also mark that the channel will be dependent on the antenna configurations.) You can not put phased arrays on top of this, as the MIMO is a superset of phased arrays: a fully implemented MIMO is actually better than a phased array (the latter term which is commonly used for deterministic beam steering and nulling).

Re:Phased Arrays (2, Informative)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20815029)

I'm just saying that phased arrays are one kind of MIMO. WiMAX is using a little MIMO tech. If it used more MIMO tech, specifically the phased arrays we're discussing, it wouldn't necessarily need the higher frequencies and other features to get higher bandwidth. Though getting them all would be nice.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

Jott42 (702470) | more than 6 years ago | (#20820607)

And exactly what is the difference between using MIMO tech, and using MIMO tech with phased arrays? Are you only proposing that WiMax should have lager arrays, or do you propose that there is some fundamental difference in implementation?

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20823621)

It depends on the MIMO tech used in WiMAX. I don't know exactly how it's implemented. But it would need to be implemented explicitly to recover lots of info from the incoming signals that I don't expect WiMAX does. It's probably more an extra set of tech (components, interconnects and software) than a fundamental difference. But I'd be impressed if it could be just a SW revision to the existing MIMO to work properly. In fact, such convenience would inspire a conspiracy theory :).

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#20813937)

Unless you can see only one object in a room that's colored red, this should be easy to understand.

You can distinguish between multiple objects that are close together, because visible light is at an EXTREMELY high frequency... far, far higher than anything we use for radio communications.

Try it with sound... Have two speakers playing the same frequency sound (eg. a sine wave) right next to each other. Have each play an occasional blip (eg. slow morse code), and just try to distinguish which blip came from which speaker. Try that with a few hundred speakers, and let me know how your magic infinite bandwidth technology works out...

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20815101)

I can tell which of two identical phones are ringing in different parts of a room. And the frequency ranges are questions of degree.

I just debunked the offered multipath problem that was claimed to not affect visible frequencies, and pointed out how it's already solved in that range, too. You haven't backed up your assertions, except to repeat them in a different analogy that I've now shot down just as easily. It's obvious that you're offering the kind of Slashdot argument that never ends, no matter how overwhelmed you are by the refutation.

Just because you can't do it doesn't mean its impossible. Don't bother keeping me posted on how your primitive comprehension is keeping you in the dark.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#20817249)

I can tell which of two identical phones are ringing in different parts of a room. And the frequency ranges are questions of degree.

If they are at a different distance from you, you may be able to determine that from amplitude, but that only works in perfect conditions. Generally, short-range.

And what's more, "different parts of a room" makes the comparison invalid... With Phased Arrays, of course you can have two transmitters on the same frequency, especially if they're in very different directions. Once you have several in the same general direction, you lose the ability to discern them, dependent on the frequency, of course.

But you continue to believe in magic technology that defies natural laws. I won't interrupt your fantasy again.

Re:Phased Arrays (1)

kevin.fowler (915964) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809567)

<thomas dolby>
SCIENCE!
</thomas dolby>

just open it up! (5, Insightful)

m2943 (1140797) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806085)

WiFi has shown that the world doesn't end when there's a region of spectrum that anybody can use; modern electronics is smart enough to co-exist, and when there is interferences (Bluetooth vs. WiFi), manufacturers get together and work it out.

So, just open up a bunch of bands under similar terms to WiFi. If Sprint wants to deploy WiMax there, great. If other people want to use it for baby monitors, that's great too.

What companies are really after is for the government to hand them a monopoly and to make it difficult for their competitors to enter the market, and that we shouldn't happen.

So, FCC, take away the bands from the spectrum-hoarding institutions, but don't give them to other companies, just open them up.

Re:just open it up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20806767)

WiFi has shown that the world doesn't end when there's a region of spectrum that anybody can use
No it hasn't. You've never been to an area that had multiple accesspoints on the same channel? And that's even intra-technology. Would you like to be the helpdesk guy that spends 99% of it's time explaining customers that every time ricky from next door takes out his RC car their service will be unavailable? It doesn't help anyone in my opinion. It's bad for the company's reputation, for the product's reputation, the technology's reputation and customer satisfaction. I don't think not regulating is an option for any serious technology. On the other hand, I also do not think governments should also not use it as a cashcow.

Re:just open it up! (1)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 6 years ago | (#20807421)

The problem with that is that the guy with the biggest, most wattage-burning antenna wins.

Re:just open it up! (2, Interesting)

Nurgled (63197) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808957)

WiFi has shown that the world doesn't end when there's a region of spectrum that anybody can use; modern electronics is smart enough to co-exist, and when there is interferences (Bluetooth vs. WiFi), manufacturers get together and work it out.

I have a wireless access point in my house. I also have a very simple device that sends video and audio over the air to a television set in another room using the same frequency band. The wi-fi interferes horribly with the a/v.

Now, in my case this is self-inflicted and I just unplug my AP whenever I want to watch TV. If my neighbors had one of these a/v transmitters, though, my AP is likely to interfere with it and they'd have no recourse whatsoever.

Re:just open it up! (4, Insightful)

amper (33785) | more than 6 years ago | (#20810807)

Despite my agreement with the basic libertarian tenets of this post, I find it utterly appalling that on a site like Slashdot that this post could be modded up, "Insightful". This post displays such a fundamental lack of knowledge about radio technology, the purpose of the FCC, and the functions of government and private enterprise, that I wonder if the post isn't just a troll, in the end.

IEEE 802.11b and similar technologies aren't licensed services. They operate under Class B rules, which severely limit the usefulness of these devices to relatively short distances. Class B rules are in no way suitable for wide-reaching wireless services. Before anyone starts talking about Pringles can antennae, you should know that such modifications are, technically, not FCC-compliant.

Radio specturm is a resource which is in very limited, fixed supply. Without regulation, there would be utter chaos. Granted, the regulation could be more efficient, but there are smarter, more knowledgable people in this world than the parent poster who understand the function of licensed services.

Re:just open it up! (1)

Pope (17780) | more than 6 years ago | (#20817961)

I find it utterly appalling that on a site like Slashdot that this post could be modded up, "Insightful"

I'd say "You must be new around here!" but you're not. Ignorance remains the most abundant element of the universe after hydrogen, why should Slashdot be any different than any other website?

Re:just open it up! (1)

Penguin Programmer (241752) | more than 6 years ago | (#20811977)

WiFi has shown that the world doesn't end when there's a region of spectrum that anybody can use; modern electronics is smart enough to co-exist, and when there is interferences (Bluetooth vs. WiFi), manufacturers get together and work it out.


Tell that to all the guys whose laptops stop hitting the internet when someone uses the microwave. We're all willing to put up with flaky WiFi and cordless phones because we're just used to the fact that lots of stuff runs at 2.4GHz and there will be interference. Everyone knows that you don't run anything you want to have 100% uptime on wireless, so it's not a problem. But we're talking about internet connections here. People aren't (and shouldn't be) willing to settle for the internet connection into their home going down because of random interference from some device in the neighbor's house.

Re:just open it up! (1)

IhuntCIA (1099827) | more than 6 years ago | (#20814653)

WiFi has shown that the world doesn't end when there's a region of spectrum that anybody can use; modern electronics is smart enough to co-exist, and when there is interferences (Bluetooth vs. WiFi), manufacturers get together and work it out.
erm ... nop
WiFi and Bluetooth co-exist as cat and mouse do co-exist. They irritate each other until one of them gives up. That is usually the cat ( WiFi ). Bluetooth devices use the frequency hopping. They change the frequency to find the free channel. If they fail to find free part of the spectrum, they choose to work on the channel with less frequency usage. If that channel is used by someone nearby to access the internet or local wireless network then his connection fails because it is jammed by narrow band bluetooth device.

Some WiFi channels overlap the licensed amateur radio bands and ISM band http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISM_band [wikipedia.org] . Here is the link to the amateur radio band frequencies http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amateur_radio_high_bands [wikipedia.org]
Next time the WiFi ( or WiMAX ) network fails think of some radio amateur who just finished his 10W transmitter and is testing it using the 15dB omnidirectional antenna.

rural schools do use this spectrum (5, Informative)

mzs (595629) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806095)

There are schools in very sparsely populated areas that still use this. Primarily they use it for tele-teaching types of things where the student sits in front of a TV while the teacher on the TV is giving a lesson to the entire district or even state. It should not just be taken away from them. These places often have no other way to do something like this. They have been investing into this infrastructure for decades. If the spectrum is taken away from them, then they should be paid so that they can create other forms of distance learning. Verizon doesn't want to pay for this, but they just can't wait for when the same schools will pay them for the services that they will provide over that spectrum later.

Re:rural schools do use this spectrum (1)

mpoulton (689851) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806141)

Keep in mind that this legal wrangling does not apply to organizations that are actually using the spectrum right now. Those entities have the choice of either keeping it or selling it. The problem is that many entities had licenses they didn't use (and didn't renew). Those entities now want to reinstate their old licenses ASAP so they can hold the spectrum hostage from Sprint. Sprint wants these reinstatements blocked so they can have an equal shot at the spectrum.

Re:rural schools do use this spectrum (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806319)

So many errors, so little time...

It should not just be taken away from them.

No one has even remotely suggested taking spectrum away from schools that are using it.

Verizon doesn't want to pay for this,

Try not to slander Verizon... Sprint is the company involved.

All things you'd know, had you (or the moderators) RTFA.

Obvious solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20806143)

Given US schools are known internationally to be well below standard, and even approaching third world in parts, the obvious solution is for the spectrum to be compulsorily acquired, centrally managed, and auctioned off to the highest bidders (with the 3G spectrum price as the baseline). Proceeds go to the schools who gave up the spectrum on a formula which allocates inverse to average constituent income (so poorer schools in poorer suburbs get more money).

Re:Obvious solution (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806231)

So you're advocating a Democratic solution to a Republican enterprise? That doesn't seem very progressive.

Re:Obvious solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20806269)

I think you might be mistaking me for someone who gives a flying f-ck about your faux two-party political system.

Clearwire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20806233)

In my opinion, Clearwire is a joke. There is too much lag. It doesn't matter whether or not they get to lease this part of the spectrum. If you cannot keep customers, it won't matter.

Third Pipe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20806453)

After what Sprint did to Vonage, I wish someone would give Sprint the "third pipe".

What did the FCC license to Sprint and Clearwire? (1)

WoTG (610710) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806485)

Were these pre-existing licenses made known to Sprint et. al. when they bid on this spectrum? Wouldn't winning this bid entitle you to the spectrum -- making the FCC as the vendor responsible for actual delivery of the required space?

Or are these just little pockets of exceptions that everyone hoped would just "work out" in the end?

Re:What did the FCC license to Sprint and Clearwir (1)

yuna49 (905461) | more than 6 years ago | (#20811209)

This is the second time the FCC has undertaken rule-makings to expand access to what was once called the "Instructional Television Fixed Service" and is now called the "Educational Broadband Service."

In a nutshell, 32, 6-MHz channels (the same size as OTA television channels) were set aside in the 2.5 GHz band for nonprofit, instructional organizations. Many of these channels are used by colleges and universities and some public and private school districts, to distribute programming from a central location to receivers scattered across the reception area. Catholic school programmers have been big users of this spectrum to distribute programming from diocesan centers to parochial and private Catholic schools. In some markets many of these channels lie fallow; in other markets, mostly the large citieis, all or most of them are in use.

In the mid-80's the FCC was pressured by pay-TV operators who distributed services like HBO over microwave to enable them to expand their operations into the ITFS bands. Unused spectrum on eight of these channels was licensed for commercial use as the "Multichannel Microwave Distribution Service," and potential pay-TV providers were encouraged to work with any existing instructional licensees to share their bandwidth. I worked on license applications for this service for a number of clients as well as submitting applications myself in partnership with some private investors. The MMDS licenses were awarded by lottery, and our partnership actually won a "construction permit" for Fort Collins, Colorado. Nevertheless we never built anything with this permit, nor did most of the other entrepreneurs looking to develop services in these bands. All the financial models were premised on rolling out multichannel pay-TV services in markets where cable had yet to be built. The rapid expansion of cable into the major markets (from which they had previously been banned by FCC regulation) destroyed the market for microwave-based pay-TV services. The regulatory process took so long that by the time the FCC had changed the rules, the economic rationale for the service had begun to wither away.

Considering that the ITFS dates back to the 1970's, I'd say Sprint and Clearwire would have had to be incredibly blind not to know that these channels were licensed to instructional television services.

My guess is that the FCC again wants to see some kind of negotiation between commercial and educational users of this block of spectrum in hopes of utilizing it more fully and subsidizing educational services.

#irc.trolltal4.com (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20806845)

percent 0f the *BSD

And the stupidity didn't begin there. (2, Informative)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 6 years ago | (#20806897)

Because the FCC was unable to grant the same frequencies for GSM in the US as in the rest of the world effectively creating more expensive mobile phones for the consumers and also limiting the international relations.

Instead of using the GSM 900/1800 the US has gone for 850/1900. This has no technical merit since 900/1800 is more effective because they are allowing for a simpler antenna design than 850/1900.

I don't know if there is a yearly fee to pay for an assigned frequency or not, but if someone pays for a frequency and don't use it that's just stupid from an economic point of view. If no yearly fee is required that is effectively creating a waste of resources situation.

Oh damn (1)

ls354 (1144513) | more than 6 years ago | (#20807503)

There goes my project, I wont be creating my city wide network out of WT54GL's and a single T1.

Will WiMax ever even reach scale? (1)

henrylee (1164721) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808603)

This article shows the interesting dynamics of corporations, but I think the bigger story here is that Intel has been trying to push WiMax for years and years now. WiMax on every laptop was supposed to happen in 2005! And one of the original benefits of WiMax was supposed to be that the operators could run it on unlicensed frequencies - which would avoid these types of licensing issues. But it's not at all clear that WiMax will win in the end. Intel still has to drive the price point low enough for there to be mass adoption, and they need many carriers have to adopt the model before consumers will care. It's a classic case of the chicken and egg problem.

Third pipe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20809353)

It fails as a third pipe if it is owned by the people that own the first two.

Thirdpipe (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#20811435)

I just hope Thirdpipe isn't anything like Thirdspace [imdb.com] , full of spam-creatures that seek to destroy real content.

802.16, WiMAX ... RTFC http://en.wikipedia.org (1)

OldHawk777 (19923) | more than 6 years ago | (#20813871)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEEE_802.16 [wikipedia.org]

It appears that a few folks should read some about "802.16" [RTFC: Read The Fycking Content].

When you do not know the technology, you can always reference/consult wikipedia as a good start point.

Using spread spectrum, frequency hopping, and reasonable allocation of what should be well managed (not private/corporately controlled) public resources .... Any one of three competing telcos in the same local area (tower or HAPcom [coverage ~250SqMi] http://www.worldskycat.com/markets/skycom.html [worldskycat.com] ) could provide (in the USA) voice, content [TV/Internet/radio/...] ... services for every home and business in the area.

From 1997 (http://www.interdigital.com) to present (IEEE and others) I have read about WLL/WiMAX/..., the technology impressed me, but our Corporate States of America (CSA) never allowed any real telecommunications competition anywhere in the USA. The proofs are many FCC giveaways. We (The USA) ranks about 25th in telecommunications infrastructure, functionality, and services in the global economy. At least telecommunications [TEK-infrastructure] is keeping pace with our collapsing bridges, dams ... (33%), exploding maned space craft (33%), health-care we're 40th, education (maybe 50th) .... It is not in the interest of the CSA-welfare economy for US to maintain/sustain leadership in anything at any cost.

The FCC, politicians ... of the CSA do not want competition. The CSA do want tax-dollar-welfare handouts, cheap labor, hostage customers (iPhone, another example), illiterate religious fervor, and strong population control defense.

!HAVEFUN! This ain't flame-troll, it is reality for US, though shit folks.

from the article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20813971)

"Sprint isn't solely dependent on EBS spectrum, as there are other varieties of 2.5 gigahertz airwaves that companies can own directly."

Huh? Wtf are airwaves, and do they come in mint chocolate chip?
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