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Wireless Networking Government The Almighty Buck Hardware Politics

The Dirty Business of Assembling WiMAX Spectrum 101

Posted by kdawson
from the whose-side-you-on-anyway dept.
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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The Dirty Business of Assembling WiMAX Spectrum

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 30, 2007 @10:34PM (#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.
  • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537)

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

      • Right, just think of the extra price as taxes!
        • 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?

          • by Yetihehe (971185)

            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.
    • 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.
      • 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.
        • by Arterion (941661)

          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.
  • 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.
    • "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 tr
    • 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 a

  • 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.

    • ...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 exp
    • 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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by User 956 (568564) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @10:59PM (#20806039) Homepage
    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 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @11:02PM (#20806059) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • 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.
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        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 i
    • by sg3000 (87992) *
      > 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
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        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 fo
    • by evilviper (135110)

      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 propag

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        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.
        • by evilviper (135110)

          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 o

          • by Doc Ruby (173196)
            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.
            • 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, i
              • by Doc Ruby (173196)
                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.
      • 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).
    • 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.
      • by F34nor (321515) *
        Not really, fractal antennas can act both as a phased array and a whip antenna across multiple bandwidths simultaneously.
        • 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.
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NeuralAbyss (12335)
      The Shannon limit still applies. It's not a solution to all the problems of RF signalling..
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        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.
        • by Jott42 (702470)
          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.
          • by Doc Ruby (173196)
            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.
            • by Jott42 (702470)
              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.
              • by Doc Ruby (173196)
                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.
                • by Jott42 (702470)
                  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 calle
                  • by Doc Ruby (173196)
                    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
                    • by Jott42 (702470)
                      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
                    • by Doc Ruby (173196)
                      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 rela
                    • by Jott42 (702470)
                      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 a
                    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                      by Doc Ruby (173196)
                      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.
                    • by Jott42 (702470)
                      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?
                    • by Doc Ruby (173196)
                      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 :).
        • by evilviper (135110)

          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 fr

          • by Doc Ruby (173196)
            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 ove
            • by evilviper (135110)

              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. Onc

    • <thomas dolby>
      SCIENCE!
      </thomas dolby>
  • just open it up! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by m2943 (1140797) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @11:06PM (#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.
    • by Anpheus (908711)
      The problem with that is that the guy with the biggest, most wattage-burning antenna wins.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nurgled (63197)

      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

    • by amper (33785) * on Monday October 01, 2007 @11:29AM (#20810807) Journal
      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.
      • by Pope (17780)

        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?
    • 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. Ev

    • by IhuntCIA (1099827)

      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

  • by mzs (595629) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @11:07PM (#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.
    • by mpoulton (689851)
      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.
    • by evilviper (135110)
      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.
  • 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?
    • 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 locatio
  • by Z00L00K (682162) on Monday October 01, 2007 @01:22AM (#20806897) Homepage
    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.

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

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