The Great Spectrum Rip-Off

5:30 PM -- Last weekend we bought a 32-inch flat-screen Sony TV, just in time to see the Denver Broncos get pasted by the surging Pittsburgh Steelers. The set was billed as "HD-ready," and I had to spend time explaining to my wife what that means and why HDTV is not here yet. I finally threw up my hands and said "It's because the TV networks don't want to get off their asses and go digital."

That was the subtext of the presentation last week at the Wireless Communications Association International (WCA) 's Symposium and Expo, in San Jose, Calif., by Michael Gallagher, the Bush administration official who heads the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Gallagher was there to boast about the Administration's "aggressive" efforts to free up spectrum for WiMax broadband wireless technology. In truth, the federal government has been about as aggressive on this front as the Broncos' defense was on Sunday.

Noting that he hopes -- hopes -- that TV broadcasters currently squatting in the valuable 700MHz band for their analog signals will free up that spectrum by 2008, Gallagher said the efforts to provide frequencies for WiMax signals will help the U.S. stay "one step ahead" of Asia and Europe when it comes to universal broadband deployment.

"Is he kidding?," asks Business Week blogger Cliff Edwards. "I can't imagine he hasn't been to places like Korea and France, where broadband is more widespread, an order of magnitude faster than even the top speeds offered by U.S. wireless carriers, and cheaper per megabyte."

Indeed, while the 3.5GHz band is the band set aside for broadband wireless access worldwide, that slice of spectrum remains out of bounds in the United States. The upcoming spectrum auctions are a welcome development, but the government's inability to hasten the move to digital TV is definitely slowing down the progress to the unwired, high-speed future.

"Oh, don't worry," the TV salesman told us, "they have to start offering high-def by the middle of this year."

Yeah, right. HD-ready, my ass.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

wap545 12/5/2012 | 4:08:04 AM
re: The Great Spectrum Rip-Off Someone is dreaming here. If the WiMAX forum elected to announce that they would have WiMAX develop standards for products operating in the 700Mhz spectrum by 2008, none of the members would be wasting any more money developing their 2 & 3Ghz radios, which have at best marginal perfomance capabilities in most metro markets.

How long would it take this group to turn this aircraft carrier they call a Forum around to develop and certify products in this space??

What Gallagher should be saying is that the Feds will be making 700Mhz spectrum available for both Licensed (for those seeking interference free) and Unlicensed systems (for those looking for high bandwidth Best Effort service). This would allow multiple players/Service Providers to enter and compete for the home and commercial customers benefiting everyone and allowing the USA to move quickly to catch up with the rest of the world.
It would also prevent the emergence of a new Duopoly made up of the big CellCo who want to dominate this Broadband Wireless market as their existing GSM and CDMA based network falter in delivering true high bandwidth services along with their VOice traffic.
Everyone of these big boys is concerned about the emergence of new Service Providers providing new capabilities using the Ubiquitous WiFi (802.11series) systems. Of special concerns is the new Wireless Mesh Networks being deployed allowing for true Broadband connection to the average joe in both a Portable and Mobile Mode.
These new systems, especially when deployed with 802.11n and 802.11e based capabilties, will dominate this Metro space and eventually relegate the CellCo to providing Narrowband (3-700Kbps) services in rural markets and handing off services to WiFi Mesh users in the Metro markets.
Watch these Mesh systems providers, especially the ones with 3-4 Radios per node, begin offering either a 900Mhz radio (like Ubiquiti's) in with their 802.11a/g products. The real nightmare for the CellCo is if an unlicensed 700Mhz radio is made available and included in these Mesh Nodes. Of course they will not allow that to happen because to many $$$ are involved.
SO, there is not much need then for either a WiMAX broadcast or mobile capability or a CellCo based service at high per minute usage levels.

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