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Government Wireless Networking

FCC Chairman Warns of Wireless Spectrum Gap 300

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

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  • Spectrum auction (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Scutter (18425) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @06:56PM (#29687101) Journal

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

  • by six11 (579) <johnsogg@@@cmu...edu> on Thursday October 08, 2009 @07:15PM (#29687265) Homepage

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

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

  • Economics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @07:19PM (#29687291) Journal

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

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

    Why would cellular networks be any different?

  • by vux984 (928602) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @07:25PM (#29687347)

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

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

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

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

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

  • Re:It's 1996 again? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TikiTDO (759782) <TikiTDO@gmail.com> on Thursday October 08, 2009 @07:27PM (#29687367)
    Spot on. The problem with the article is that it fails to account for advances in technology. As we need more bandwidth, technology will evolve to give you more bandwidth. That in less spectrum, with higher reliability and less interference.

    As you pointed out, this happened for wired connections in the past. In response, we are almost to commercial 40Gb and even 100Gb links, the latter being targeted for 40km stretches [wikipedia.org].
  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @07:31PM (#29687389)

    Shortwave? Does anyone actually listen to it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Re:It's 1996 again? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nikker (749551) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @07:39PM (#29687439)
    Don't worry about the physical bandwidth as it will open the door to more ideas like distributed caching and broadcasting single packets among multiple devices. Then again the more people cry about the sky falling the more incentive there is to impliment ideas like this for way too much money to satisfy egos. Wireless is really the way to go for the end consumer and if it does really get that big then cell carriers will devote their towers into the mix(for a price of course). Remember it's not all the bandwidth that's being eaten up it's just this particular portion as demand goes up so eventually will the supply, we will just come up with more effective and clever ways of doing it.
  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @07:40PM (#29687449) Homepage

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

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

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

  • Over Hyped (Score:2, Interesting)

    by angelbunny (1501333) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @07:43PM (#29687467)

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

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

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

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

  • Re:Over Hyped (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nxtw (866177) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @08:23PM (#29687787)

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

    Cable companies:

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

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

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @08:27PM (#29687829) Homepage

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

    Good info

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

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

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

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

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

  • by tepples (727027) <tepplesNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday October 08, 2009 @09:17PM (#29688113) Homepage Journal

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

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

  • Re:carrier frequency (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wooferhound (546132) <tim@wooferhoun[ ]om ['d.c' in gap]> on Thursday October 08, 2009 @09:56PM (#29688333) Homepage
    Yes there is Ham Radio Television
    it's called Amateur TV
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amateur_television [wikipedia.org]
  • by Myrcutio (1006333) on Friday October 09, 2009 @12:10AM (#29688933)
    I am not a physicist, but it sounds like you're mixing up analog approximations with digital bandwidth measurements. The frequency of EM spectrum used is determined by the accuracy of resonance on a conductor (see Radio Tuners [wikipedia.org]). There's no reason an antenna can't have any electric length (see Antenna resonance [wikipedia.org]) to read whatever range of spectrum might be available, and the only physical limitation is in how accurately we can transmit and receive those signals. To say that an analog medium has defined universal limits and that no technology is capable of using it more efficiently sounds like a BS assertion, i think you should cite some sources for a claim like that.
  • Re:It's 1996 again? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by coolsnowmen (695297) on Friday October 09, 2009 @12:54AM (#29689115)

    You could use microeletric gyroscopes to detemine orientation, and (in real time) use phased array antennas to only broadcast at the the closest tower.

  • Re:It's 1996 again? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by icebike (68054) on Friday October 09, 2009 @03:47AM (#29689775)

    ADSL bypasses the problem entirely. So how does ADSL do it? By bypassing the phone infrastructure entirely.

    No. Sorry that is simply NOT true.

    ADSL uses the exact same two wire copper pair that your analog signal used to use. Its the same infrastructure you had previously. In most cases the switch to adsl uses the EXACT same physical stretch of wire.

    The only difference is that instead of sending sound (analog) down the wire they send electrical pulses, 1s and 0s: digital data.

    Nothing changed other than someone started thinking OUT of the box. Someone told the analog engineers to take a hike.

    And yet this nonsense about maximums persists.

    I just told you in the GP post that adsl can do 24Mbits/s on a single pair of plain old telephone wire.

    You turn right around, stick your fingers in your ears, sing LA LA LA loudly so that you can't hear men and and insist that there is ONLY 64k of total bandwidth on those same wires.

    (And some fool mods you informative).

    Recent months have seen stories on Slashdot about even higher speeds achieved on plain old copper wires. Gigahertz speeds.

    This is why this whole thread about inadequate bandwidth is totally nonsense. New technology and totally different ways of using what we already have will continue to produce ever more information density in the same radio spectrum.

    Instead of discrete channels formerly used, we are already seeing spread spectrum transmission pumping huge volumes thru common bandwidth in unlicensed spectrum.

    Some of those technologies are in the lab today. Some haven't even taken shape in any one's mind yet. And still more await the prerequisite inventions that always give birth to new technology.

    But one thing is certain. There is a LONG way to go before we even come close to "saturating the airwaves."

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