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Communications Government Politics

The Feds Vacate Airwaves 153

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the hit-the-road-jack dept.
dada21 writes to tell us UPI is reporting that the government is getting ready to spend $936 million to move its radio communication to an obscure segment of the spectrum to make room for next-generation mobile tech. From the article: "'With 90 megahertz of additional spectrum, today's cellular carriers will be tomorrow's next-generation broadband providers,' Michael D. Gallagher, assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information, said in a statement."
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The Feds Vacate Airwaves

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  • value (Score:5, Insightful)

    by User 956 (568564) on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:05PM (#14379816) Homepage
    the government is getting ready to spend $936 million to move its radio communication to an obscure segment of the spectrum to make room for next-generation mobile tech.

    Yeah, but how many billions is their currently-used chunk of spectrum worth on the open market?
    • Re:value (Score:5, Informative)

      by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:07PM (#14379828) Homepage Journal
      I believe TFA says about US$2 billion, with some of it already sold. They also talk about selling more radio stations off, as well.
      • Re:value (Score:4, Informative)

        by User 956 (568564) on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:17PM (#14379889) Homepage
        I believe TFA says about US$2 billion, with some of it already sold.

        That $2 billion sale they mentioned in TFA was a year ago. The sale of this spectrum won't be until at least 2009; With the rate wireless is growing (and inflation), you're looking at $7-$8 billion, easy.
        • Re:value (Score:3, Funny)

          by dada21 (163177) *
          Doh. Go figure, I submit TFA and I didn't even read it correctly :)
          • Holy Crap (Score:2, Offtopic)

            by User 956 (568564)
            this estimate [alohapartners.net] gives a ballpark of around $20 billion - $30 billion for 100mhz of spectrum. That would more than offset the government's costs to move.

            (Though, if the gov't keeps fucking with our currency [safehaven.com] they way they are, I'm not sure if $20 billion will be worth all that much)
        • Yup, that's a lot of money. Say goodbye to any affordable cellphone or wireless data services on that spectrum.
          • Actually i think the business model is more like, you the supscriber pay an extra $20 a month for the ability to sit through a 2-minute (non skipable) ad segment to watch 15 minutes of 'broadcast' TV.

            Since tivo has been killing the 'captive audience' ad models, the wireless carriers are counting on getting a rather hefty share of the 20-40 bn/year advertising budget of major corperations... the plus side, is that the cell carriers knowing a bunch of personal information about you (sex, age, ethnicity, incom
    • Yeah, but how many billions is their currently-used chunk of spectrum worth on the open market?

      It's generally sold at auction so the price isn't known until it's sold. Contrary to the statement elsethread, the $2B number is not an esimate of the value of this spectrum, but an (approximate) number from a previous auction. Unfortunately, the most recent projection [cbo.gov] I've found from the congressional budget office is quite old, but here [alohapartners.net] is a more recent analysis from a decidedly interested (though hardly i

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:06PM (#14379822)
    Now if only they would vacate the country...
    • by User 956 (568564) on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:11PM (#14379845) Homepage
      Now if only they would vacate the country...

      they're working on that one. Unfortunately, it will probably be after they've spent all the money [yahoo.com].
      • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:17PM (#14379890) Homepage Journal
        This is true -- and why I've moved entirely to a personal gold standard for currency.

        In the past 15 years, they had numerous ways to spend -- direct taxes, indirect taxes, fake social security lockboxes and the worst -- currency inflation. Now that China, Russia and the Middle East are losing faith in the US dollar, they won't be able to inflate as much, right? Wrong. In March 2006, our government has decided to stop reporting the M3 Money Supply figures -- the figures that tell the world how much counterfeit money the central bank prints.

        And they think this will make the dollar more stable?
        • by m50d (797211) on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:36PM (#14380006) Homepage Journal
          And they think this will make the dollar more stable?

          Yes. This will mean noone knows that they're stepping up production to keep the US on top because the value of the dollar is basically collapsing. As long as noone notices it's about to collapse, it doesn't collapse. That's how finance works.

        • by Belseth (835595) on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:54PM (#14380102)
          Come on, get in the spirit of the madness. For the cost of printing six trillion in hundreds we can be out of debt. If we print a couple of trillion extra we can go on a spending spree. It's the " I can't be broke I got more checks" theory of economics.
          • by God'sDuck (837829)
            For the cost of printing six trillion in hundreds we can be out of debt.

            actually...that would work. of course, the resulting currency devaluation would equal an approximately $20,000 per-person tax...and you might need more than 6 trill if the currency starts plummeting before you're done shelling out the cash. but it would work.
        • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money_supply [wikipedia.org]

          M0 is the currency in circulation.

          M3 seems like a rather difficult number to nail down. Additionally, the only stuff that is in the M3 that isn't in the M2 (still reported) is stuff that is outside the US government's control. So I don't see how not reporting it fits into area of allowing more US government wrongdoing.

          To be honest, the area which really falls under the area of fiat currency nuttery is the cap between M1 and M0. It's the fractional reserve system that
          • So you're saying that 600 billion dollars in print in circulation is all we need to query, and it is only those figures that affect consumer price inflation?

            I'm not sure I agree.

            First, the M3 is by far the easiest way for the Fed to inflate the currency base "secretly" without there being a huge effect in the U.S. retail economy initially. Most of the money will be offshore dollars, eurodollars and institutional money funds -- these initially have zero effect on price inflation but as the money is converte
            • Doh, forgot to hit preview and test the link: http://www.mises.org/money.asp [mises.org]

            • by AuMatar (183847) on Monday January 02, 2006 @05:21PM (#14380552)
              Except that gold has no value either. Oh, its kind of pretty, but it has no real use. If the dollar was to go hyperinflation, there's no particular reason we'd move back to gold. More likely, we'd start using Euros or other currency, just like the dollar is now defacto cash in many third world markets. If it goes so far that not even foreign bank notes are trusted, its even less likely that gold would be seen as valuable- at that point we're so FUBARed were back to barter, most likely with ammo and medicine being the most valuable items, as by that point the government has utterly collapsed.
              • Gold has no value except as a store of wealth for those who use it, as a much-needy industrial metal, and as a store of wealth for every central bank in the world.

                If the dollar hyperinflates, we WOULD switch to other fiat currencies, surely. I'll still use gold as my wealth store (it is not an investment for me, merely a version of your bank). I buy everything with gold and silver (I keep my wealth stored as a hard metal, and when I need something I have avenues for converting it to the fiat currency of c
                • The problem is- to use it as a value store, *other* people have to accept it as a value store. If you offered to buy something from me in gold, I wouldn't take it- I have no use for it and can't easily spend it. Whereas I would take cash or barter. Even if the dollar crashed, I wouldn't take it unless the second part changed- unless the 90% majority of the US started passing back gold nuggets instead of greenbacks. Unlikely to happen. So unless you're buying gold as an investment hoping it just keeps
                  • You won't accept it, but through all my world travels, I have never been in a city anywhere that didn't buy gold for close to the spot value -- ever. In one town I do business in (~5000 residents) there are 3 different places that accept it.

                    My currency is in gold and silver. This is the equivalent of what people using checking and savings accounts for. I also have some gold and silver for my retirement. My "investment" money -- what you'd use a stock market for -- is invested in my businesses. Lately I
                    • Actually, if you fear the dollar devaluing you should be taking out loans- as much as you can. By the time you have to pay them off, it'll be pocket change. Inflation and hyperinflation are good for people with massive debt.

                      Gold still doesn't make sense though. You need money in 3 forms:

                      1)Short term- money to spend at the movies or the market. This is still cash, I can't walk into 7-11 and give them gold. Basicly cash on hand.

                      2)Long term- this is investments, so the money grows. Whatever form that
                    • Actually, if you fear the dollar devaluing you should be taking out loans- as much as you can.

                      If I wanted to take advantage, yes. I don't want to, I just want stability, safety and fairness.

                      )Short term- money to spend at the movies or the market. This is still cash, I can't walk into 7-11 and give them gold. Basicly cash on hand.

                      I found 25 restaurants, 8ish grocers and numerous consumer goods stores within 45 minutes of me who redeem gold annd silver for their goods. I'm sitting in a restaurant now that d
                    • Have you seen the documentary "The Money Masters: How International Bankers Gained Control of America" that you can find and download online? Interesting little "history of currency" film with a major conspiracy angle.

                      International Bankers: Because it sounds racist if we use the 'J' word.

                    • Fairly risky since half of new buisnesses fail in 5 years, but highly profitable if they pan out).

                      While half close their doors, by far most do not owe anyone any money. A sizeable majority closes at 0 or in the black. My source? Some lady with the Texas government who helps small businesses. Having said that, I doubt they have statistics on individual investors' losses/gains for those businesses.

                      -l

                • "as a much-needy industrial metal,"

                  I'm not sure gold is that needed is it? What process in the world requires gold and can't use a substitute? I know its a good conductor, but so it copper. I knows its very maleable, but I don't think there's an application for gold that can't be done by something else (in an industrial sense).

                  Its main value seems to come from the fact that everybody thinks its valuable for jewelry. So its valuable because people think its valuable.

                  My issue with the gold-bug people is t
                  • Well, excellent conductivity and extremely low reactivity. It's not quite a noble gas, but gold doesn't corrode, which makes it much better for delicate electonics and mating connectors than most other metals.
              • "Except that gold has no value either. Oh, its kind of pretty, but it has no real use."

                Yeah, it's not like it conducts electricity or anything like that.

                From wikipedia:

                Applications

                Pure gold is too soft for ordinary use and is hardened by alloying with silver, copper, and other metals. Gold and its many alloys are most often used in jewelry, coinage and as a standard for monetary exchange in many countries. Because of its high electrical conductivity and resistance to corrosion and other desirable combinatio

              • Except that gold has no value either. Oh, its kind of pretty, but it has no real use.
                perhaps you could take up your argument with the Monster Cable manufacturers
            • I think M2 is a better measure.

              Some might even think M3 covers more stuff, but the additional stuff it covers does not include stuff under the US government's control. So I don't see why not reporting M3 frees up the government to do more bad things. That's all I'm saying. I'm not saying our government isn't doing bad things, simply that this won't affect their ability to do them.

              I do wish to say that if you really meant the total money supply (not M0), then the phrase "print more counterfeit money" should
        • This is true -- and why I've moved entirely to a personal gold standard for currency.

          Would someone please explain the gold standard to me? I understand the need for non-fiat currency that has equal value as currency as it would as material, but why gold? It's not a fixed quantity. IIRC one of the reasons for the fall of 1600s Spain was that the colonies discovered gold, thereby reducing the value of their gold-standard currency.

          In Atlas Shrugged, the banker owns a gold deposit. Is it just a coincidence that
          • Actually, go read the link I provided at http://www.mises.org/money.asp [mises.org] it explains the need for NO currency standard. Money can exist in a non-regulated free market system and would likely lead to not only more wealth for the poor, but more stable wealth for everyone.

            I prefer gold as my standard because it has generally held its value over time -- thousands of years actually. The only time gold really spiked and fell was when we saw large manipulations or large discovering. Over time, though, the popul
        • "And they think this will make the dollar more stable?"

          The stability of the value of gold depends on fusion and spaceflight continuing to be expensive. Physicists are already using supercolliders to create gold in the laboratory and the presence of gold in the asteroid belt is fairly well known, it's only a matter of time for the expense of the technology to come down, and then you'll be stuck with a bunch of shiney yellow paperweights.

          (It may seem farfetched now, but so were manmade diamonds once.)

          You als
        • "This is true -- and why I've moved entirely to a personal gold standard for currency."

          Yeah I'm sure that works really well at the gas station.
          • Yeah I'm sure that works really well at the gas station.

            You'd be surprised. Both my local (Indian-owned) gas stations do -- at a 9% discount, too.

            Restaurants, grocers, consumer goods -- I've found dozens near me and around the country that accept bullion. Most offer a nice discount, too.
      • Among other factors, the Treasury cited increased spending for rebuilding Gulf Coast areas hit hard by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

        Yeah, I'm sure that's what pushed us over the top. You know that's the biggest non-regular bit of government spending this year! </sarcasm>

  • Why Sell It? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bellum Aeternus (891584) on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:10PM (#14379840)
    Why does our government feel the need to auction off the spectrum? Why can't they just increase the amount of availble spectrum ear marked for general purpose use? The now famous WiFi uses public spectrum and is easily the most famous radio - except perhaps radio itself.

    Selling the spectrum will only accomplish two things: 1) Make some rich companies richer. 2) reduce innovation because only said companies can use the newly availble spectrum.

    • Re:Why Sell It? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:14PM (#14379864) Homepage Journal
      I agree with you. I blogged [blogspot.com] about it today, before I submitted the article to slashdot. I'd love to see a bigger experiment from the FCC on privatizing and anarchizing (sp?) airwaves to see how it works.

      You'll likely see some responses here from people on how their neighbor's microwave screws with their WiFi, but I run and maintain 25 WiFi networks for friends and family and we don't have a problem with a single network. I even offer my WiFi connection free to all my neighbors and they don't even call with tech support questions.
      • Re:Why Sell It? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timeOday (582209)
        You'll likely see some responses here from people on how their neighbor's microwave screws with their WiFi
        I'd much rather use the spectrum with a chance of inteference than be banned from it entirely.
      • I agree with you. I blogged [blogspot.com] about it today, before I submitted the article to slashdot. I'd love to see a bigger experiment from the FCC on privatizing and anarchizing (sp?) airwaves to see how it works.

        I think the end result would be almost a total abandonment of a large part of the spectrum by commercial companies ... you'd see radio being used mostly by hobbyists and individuals...

        Or maybe that's what you had in mind... ;)

        • I think the end result would be almost a total abandonment of a large part of the spectrum by commercial companies ... you'd see radio being used mostly by hobbyists and individuals...
          Why on earth do you think so?
        • I think the end result would be almost a total abandonment of a large part of the spectrum by commercial companies ... you'd see radio being used mostly by hobbyists and individuals...

          Yeah, because radio-based features are just minor, superfluous add-ons to most commercial products and services that use them, like cell phones, pagers, commercial 2-way radio dispatch, etc.

          Man, you must be on crack.

    • Re:Why Sell It? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:15PM (#14379874) Homepage
      Why does our government feel the need to auction off the spectrum?

      Selling the spectrum will only accomplish two things: 1) Make some rich companies richer. 2) reduce innovation because only said companies can use the newly availble spectrum.


      Question, meet Answer.
    • Power (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770)
      The problem with open spectrums like 2.4GHz is they have to be low power and either short range omni, or medium range but narrow direction. The reason is that if anyone can set it up, there has to be a reasonable expectation that your equipment will work and not be interfered with by others.

      I mean suppose there was no limits on the 2.4GHz spectrum. So you go and buy a little, low power wireless device and hook it up. You get nothing, in fact, the device gets damaged. Why? Well turns out I live down the bloc
      • I live down the block, and I use that band for high power transmissions. I have a 10,000 watt transmitter that I use to get my data all over the city.

        That's ok, you can use your 10,000 watt transmitter - because you won't be around for very long - especially if you use that kinda power on 2.4Ghz.

        The fun thing about these 'power games' is that for 2 way communications, BOTH sides need to reach each other. this means you'll need 2 x 10,000 watt transmitters.... and good luck getting a power supply for one of
        • People operate transmitters in that range of power all the time. They are called FM radio stations. Some are even higher, as high as 100,000 watts. It's not like it's hard to get that kind of power to a fixed installation. I'm not talking bi-directional devices here, in fact I'm not talking any real device. I am pointing out why there have to be power limits to an unlicensed spectrum.
        • I've seen similar sized transmitters used for communication with satellites. They're called klystrons [wikipedia.org]. They aren't cheap, and they run off a high-voltage power supply. The one I saw could produce 20 kW at 2.4 GHz. They are safe if you keep a reasonable distance from the transmit antenna.
    • Virtually no one is using the rather large 5GHz U-NII band that the FCC already gave us, while 2.4GHz gets more and more crowded. I suppose there would be more demand for 1.7GHz or 2.1GHz unlicensed since it is "better" spectrum than 5GHz, but the precedent still isn't good.
    • Re:Why Sell It? (Score:5, Informative)

      by kbielefe (606566) <karl...bielefeldt+slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Monday January 02, 2006 @05:37PM (#14380630)
      WiFi does not use "public spectrum." It falls under part 15 rules and therefore uses spectrum that is allocated to licensed users, at extremely low power, with the understanding that it must not cause interference and must accept any interference. In other words, your WiFi router has no more right to transmit on that channel than your neighbor's microwave oven has.

      As a licensed user of several of the WiFi channels I can transmit at 1500 watts over an entire city, if necessary to establish communication, and can interfere with any unlicensed WiFi routers on my channel with impunity. Not only that, if any of those routers are interfering with my signal, they are legally required to shut down or at least change channel.

      Think that's unfair? The designers of WiFi were aware of those requirements when they first selected the frequencies. Luckily for all you unlicensed users of WiFi, most of us hams are nice guys who like WiFi for our own networks, and are excited about the availability of cheap hardware for using that part of the spectrum.

      • Re:Why Sell It? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by CRC'99 (96526) on Monday January 02, 2006 @08:20PM (#14381354) Homepage
        WiFi does not use "public spectrum." It falls under part 15 rules and therefore uses spectrum that is allocated to licensed users, at extremely low power, with the understanding that it must not cause interference and must accept any interference. In other words, your WiFi router has no more right to transmit on that channel than your neighbor's microwave oven has.

        Actually, it's under a class license, which means the devices themselves need to pass certification to be operated in that band. It is known widely as public spectrum because it is the device that is certified for mass production that anyone can go and buy.

        As a licensed user of several of the WiFi channels I can transmit at 1500 watts over an entire city, if necessary to establish communication, and can interfere with any unlicensed WiFi routers on my channel with impunity. Not only that, if any of those routers are interfering with my signal, they are legally required to shut down or at least change channel.

        Wrong. I think you'll find that in that part of the band, the limit is MUCH less than 1500 watts. I can't recall the exact figures, but from memory, if it's over 200W transmitter power, then you need special permission. I do believe that the 2.4Ghz section of spectrum is much lower due to the potential risks at that particular band. Your request to run this kind of power (1500W) in that area would be denied. They are also not legally required to shut down their service. You can just ask nicely. You have just as much responsibility to not cause interference as they do.

        Think that's unfair? The designers of WiFi were aware of those requirements when they first selected the frequencies. Luckily for all you unlicensed users of WiFi, most of us hams are nice guys who like WiFi for our own networks, and are excited about the availability of cheap hardware for using that part of the spectrum.

        Wow. Nice to know you like to blow you're own trumpet and I love the sound of breaking a power trip. WiFi users are not required to be licensed - the equipment is as mentioned earlier. Don't make it sound like you're doing people a favour here - all I see is a snobby HAM operator blowing his horn.
        • I'm broadcasting at 1500 watts on that band right now. You see, I am opening and closing my microwave oven door in a pattern that makes a message using morse code. Can you hear me now?
    • Why can't they just increase the amount of availble spectrum ear marked for general purpose use? The now famous WiFi uses public spectrum and is easily the most famous radio - except perhaps radio itself.

      AM and FM radio are more well-known than WiFi, but I think WiFi is also behind two other very famous uses of the spectrum: television, and cell phones. Also, in the general population, I would think Citizens' Band radio and Police / Fire / EMS radio are pretty well-known uses. Also, GPS is pretty fa

      • AM and FM radio are more well-known than WiFi, but I think WiFi is also behind two other very famous uses of the spectrum: television, and cell phones. Also, in the general population, I would think Citizens' Band radio and Police / Fire / EMS radio are pretty well-known uses. Also, GPS is pretty famous.

        Ok, so how many people know what freqency Channel 21 is broadcast at? Now compare that to how many people know what frequency WiFi is transmitted at. How about cell phones? There are many different freq
    • The base article (from UPI) is about what you'd expect from the Moonies, who bought the UPI brand in bankruptcy. It's a day late and an ounce of their precious gold short. So let's clarify what's going on.

      Cellular and other commercial wireless telecommunications is all based on recycled spectrum. The original cellular 800 MHz licenses were taken from TV channels 70-83, which were deleted from broadcasting some years ago. PCS 1800 MHz licenses were largely taken away from fixed terrestrial microwave syst
    • Why does our government feel the need to auction off the spectrum?

      Without that money as an incentive, they wouldn't be spending millions upon millions of dollars switching frequency in the first place.

      Why can't they just increase the amount of availble spectrum ear marked for general purpose use?

      Maybe because the currently available public-use bands are just stagnating? The CB frequencies are really wide-open, and still practically nobody is using them. With newer radio technologies, those frequencies cou

  • by IAAP (937607)
    The trade group, the Telecommunications Industry Association, had lobbied for the law and the follow-up report and issued a positive statement regarding the nearly $1 billion cost estimate released by the government this week.

    So, considering the track record of lobbyist and Congress, how many of you re highly skeptical that the people of th US will be getting their money's worth when the spectrums are auctioned? I know I am.

  • by asadodetira (664509) on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:22PM (#14379923) Homepage
    This move might be another step in the wrong direction. If i'm not mistaken in a NPR radio show an expert said that some current commercial frequencies would be extremely useful for emergency responders since they can reach deeper inside buildings. They attributed the misuse of airwaves to lobby of big media groups. Apparently a lot of the rescue radio communication problems detected after 9/11 have not been solved, changes can be quickly made when there's a commercial reason.
    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:32PM (#14379988) Homepage Journal
      I read that Sprint/NexTel is selling the IDEN network that Nextel uses to the government. The PPT "walkie talkie" system plus the nation wide network should work pretty well for "first" responders. How well does it work in buildings? I have no idea. I do know that Sprint got a nice chunk of spectrum in WiMax range in exchange for the IDEN network.
      • Another factor they mentioned is the power requirement. It's preferrable to use bands that can transmit farther/deeper using less power because some equipment quickly eats up batteries. (In many cases they use non-removable rechargeable packs)
      • The iDEN/Nextel stuff was a kind of "cleaning up" of the spectrul allocation. Nextel's long history meant that it had a lot of little slices of allocations throughout the nation, which happened to be kind of mixed in with cellular stuff. (The cellular came later, and just worked around the Nextel stuff on a regional basis.)

        Rather than keep up the "which frequencies do we have to not use because of Nextel in THIS city?" nonsense, and because the cellular and iDEN operators were not leaving much space between
    • This move might be another step in the wrong direction. If i'm not mistaken in a NPR radio show an expert said that some current commercial frequencies would be extremely useful for emergency responders since they can reach deeper inside buildings.

      The article mentions this is about the 1710- to 1755-MHz band. This is a slightly lower frequency than current GSM-1900 or CDMA-2000 handsets use. As such, I can tell you it doesn't reach too far into buildings. Expect bad or no coverage in the basement, or in ele
      • The main frequencies being used/considered in public safety (in the US) are the 800-900MHz range (for voice communications, and low-bandwidth high-range/high-penetration data) and the 4.9GHz for wifi (some may use the "standard" wifi frequency at 2.4GHz, for the COTS equipment, dual public use, or lower density of repeaters necessary, but they find the idea of having their own dedicated frequency very attractive).
      • TETRA operates in the 380-383 MHz or 390-393 MHz range, yet these are still high enough frequencies to neccesitate a dense network of repeaters, and still it doesn't penetrate too far into buildings, which is of great concern to e.g. firefighters. Of course, since it's already cost billions to partially implement (so far), they can hardly call the whole thing off.

        What? You can't possibly convince me they didn't already KNOW the limitations of those frequencies long before they even designed the system. Th

    • by josecanuc (91) * on Monday January 02, 2006 @04:29PM (#14380282) Homepage Journal
      The problem of emergency responder and public safety radio system (non)interoperability grows out of the history of growth of the systems.

      In the beginning, each agency had one or a few dedicated frequencies for communcation. The fire department might have 3 channels labeled "Primary", "Secondary", and "Tactical". Each of those would correspond to a pair of frequencies known as a "repeater pair". One frequency is the "input" to the repeater, and the other, the "output". In "idle", each radio is listening to the "output" frequency. When a fireman transmits on the radio, it transmits on the "input". The repeater listens to the input constantly. When it senses someone transmitting on the input frequency, it fires up it's transmitter on the output frequency and passes the audio from the input receiver to the output transmitter.

      (Not much has changed since then)

      Each agency (police, fire, waste, roads & bridges, etc.) of a city, plus county(parish), state, and federal agengies was in direct administrative control over their frequencies (an therefore channels). The fire department would apply with the FCC for a license for 3 repeater pairs, and the FCC would say, you can use pairs X, Y, and Z at no more than P Watts of power. The FCC determined this by ensuring that pairs X, Y, and Z were not used elsewhere in a geographical proximity that would likely be breached by a transmitter at the fire department's location based on RF propogation models at the given frequencies and terrain.

      Now, in a bigger sense, the FCC also defined the allocation of the RF spectrum for the entire radio electromagnetic radation spectrum. Not on an individual basis, but on a functional basis. Like, 150MHz - 158MHz is allocated for public safety use, and therefore frequency pairs in that "band" would be available for individual licensing to any public safety agency (police, fire, EMS, etc.) Great amounts of spectrum are currently allocated for "federal" use. Note that not all RF use is for voice communication. Some is set aside for radioastronomy: no licenses are given to allow transmitting there, so radioastronomers can be certain that if they listen in that band, there will be less human interference than if they just picked any arbitrary frequency band to monitor.

      As the technology improved and became cheaper, it became possible to utilize higher and higher frequencies. As such, whenever a band seemed "crowded", and the FCC opened up a higher band for the same purpose, it opened up a wider band. Wider bands means the same number of available channelized frequencies in the pool could be wider, and therefore carry better sound quality. Alternatively, the same quality could result with a higher count of "channels" in a band.

      Public safety and city maintenance radio systems used to operate around 30MHz and 50MHz (about 10meter and 6meter wavelenths). Those gave good range -- the radio energy from the repeater and mobile radios was not attenuated by the atmosphere too much. As the frequency increases, though, the attenuation (lessening) of the signal strength by the various components of the air increases. At the same time, there is less "other" RF energy floating around from such things as the sun and lightning in storms, so the end result was to have slightly increased power requirements on transmitters and vastly increased voice quality and vastly increased equipment maintainability. Much of RF engineering has to do with the real wavelength, so as you go shorter in wavelenth, some of your filtering hardware can get smaller and more compact.

      Eventually, every little city had a dozen or so frequencies allocated to various agencies within. It was a very inefficient use of the scarce resource of RF spectrum. If the fire department of Podunk, WV had 3 frequencies allocated to it, no other agency within, say, 100 miles could be allocated those frequencies. And you have to realize also that an FM-modulated voice signal has a real "bandwidth", and so you had to space out the "channels" of available frequenc
  • Great. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dharh (520643)
    How much more of the spectrum are they going to give away to proprietary companies? The least they could do is _sell_ it. Sick and tired of government mismanaging the spectrum.
  • by Generic Guy (678542) on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:31PM (#14379981)
    today's cellular carriers will be tomorrow's next-generation broadband providers

    No they won't. With the greed and unwillingness to give customers what they really want the cell carriers shown already that they'll overprice, meter, and "extra-cost" everything. No thanks.

    • With the greed and unwillingness to give customers what they really want the cell carriers shown already that they'll overprice, meter, and "extra-cost" everything.
      And paying $billions up-front for spectrum gives them the perfect reason/excuse to do so.
  • by hellfire (86129) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `vdalived'> on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:31PM (#14379982) Homepage
    Now that 90 Mhz of spectrum which wasn't interfering with anything anyway is no longer interfering with the cell phone spectrum which wasn't being interfered with, perhaps we can write more laws reducing interference in things previously not interfered with? Oh wait... we already have the PATRIOT act.
  • by O (90420) on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:36PM (#14380007)

    FTFA: They're going to auction off the 1710-1755 MHz spectrum in addition to the already planned 2110-2155 MHz spectrum.

    UMTS [wikipedia.org]: "The specific frequency bands originally defined by the UMTS standard are 1885-2025 MHz for uplink and 2110-2200 MHz for downlink."

    Once again, we can't use the frequencies that the rest of the world uses, so we have to get "Americas" phones with different bands or wait for Nokia et al to release "6-band" (800, 900, 1800, 1900, Euro/Japan UMTS, Americas UMTS) phones. Goddammit!

    • I think you mean the rest of the world refuses to use the same frequencies we use. We picked the vast majority of them first. We invented the technologies for and allocated the frequencies for AM, FM, TV (which is just FM), Radar, Cell, et al first almost without exception (in terms of commercial or public availability, not necessarily in terms of first invention/patent)

      It is the rest of the world (Europe, Japan, China, etc) that refuses to use the standards we created.
  • 90 mhz ain't much (Score:2, Insightful)

    by baomike (143457)
    Can broadband really be put in 90 mhz?
    Consider that a SD tv channel is 6 Mhz.
    Now NTSC tv is not the most efficeint use of 6 MHz , but HD TV takes even more.
    How many people each wanting 1-10 MHz of bandwidth can you fit in this space?
    • HDTV takes 6 MHz (Score:3, Informative)

      by michaelmalak (91262)
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ATSC [wikipedia.org] -- emphasis added:

      The ATSC system supports a host of different display resolutions and frame rates. The formats below list frame/field rates and lines of resolution (for more informations and links, see also the TV resolution overview at the end of this article):

      • SDTV
        480i60 (NTSC), 480p24, 480p30 576i50, 576p25 (PAL, SECAM);
      • EDTV
        480p60; 576p50
      • HDTV
        720i50, 720i60, 720p24, 720p25, 720p30, 720p50, 720p60, 1080i50, 1080i60, 1080p24, 1080p25, 1080p30

      ATSC signals are designed to u

    • Re:90 mhz ain't much (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Amouth (879122)
      the peoblem with that is that it is video that you are talking about.. tv is horrid when brodcast.. it needs soo much bandwith..

      when you look at a 2.4ghz netowrk (say chan 6 becsue it is most common)

      top = 2,448,000,000 hz
      bottom = 2,426,000,000 hz
      diffrence = 22,000,000 hz = 22mhz span that can be used for a 54mbit connection with a local wifi.. and done very nasty
      (90/22)*54 = 220.9 mbits avaliable)
      considering most cable modems are 3mbit and dsl is 1.5mb
      220.9 /3 = 73.6 cable or 147.2 for dsl connection speeds
    • Consider that a SD tv channel is 6 Mhz.

      No, it isn't. NTSC (analog) video is broadcast in 6MHz. SD (digital) is MPEG2 compressed; muxed with more MPEG compressed channels and other data for a total of 19.39 Mbits. Then it is run through a couple forward error correction algorithms and ends up at 39.78 Mbits. Then it is modulated using 8-vsb and transmitted in 6MHz. There are huge differences between NTSC and SD.
  • by elgatozorbas (783538) on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:46PM (#14380067)
    TFA does not say what exactly is this 'obscure part of the spectrum' they are going to. Anyone?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:53PM (#14380098)
    Does this mean that tinfoil will no longer be effective?
  • Great! (Score:4, Informative)

    by heatdeath (217147) on Monday January 02, 2006 @04:00PM (#14380132)
    Now if only they would get rid of the almost 1Ghz allocated to fixed-point communications, like satellite communications, and maritime and aeronautical navigation. I wish they would force them to use their spectrum more wisely instead of forcing something that everyone uses to be crammed into a tiny space. (Satellite should be using UWB - they have to have dishes anyway - they can afford to receive a signal that is just above the background signal strength)

    http://www.ntia.doc.gov/osmhome/allochrt.pdf [doc.gov]
  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Monday January 02, 2006 @04:00PM (#14380136) Homepage
    U.S. Frequency Allocation Chart [doc.gov]

    The frequencies discussed in the article, 1710-1755 MHz and 2110-2155 MHz, can be found on the right side of the fifth bar.

  • by swschrad (312009) on Monday January 02, 2006 @04:12PM (#14380198) Homepage Journal
    the government controls 99% of the spectrum, useable and experimental, and this is the first time they have ever given back a single kilocycle of allocation. in the past, it has always been nonprofit, public safety, and commercial use that has been tagged for reallocations.

    congratulations for finally stepping up to the plate, and many more for uncle selfish.
    • by rabtech (223758) on Monday January 02, 2006 @06:29PM (#14380885) Homepage
      the government controls 99% of the spectrum, useable and experimental, and this is the first time they have ever given back a single kilocycle of allocation. in the past, it has always been nonprofit, public safety, and commercial use that has been tagged for reallocations.

      congratulations for finally stepping up to the plate, and many more for uncle selfish.

      Actually that isn't true... check the chart at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/osmhome/allochrt.pdf [doc.gov]

      The vast majority of the spectrum is non-government exclusive or shared government/non-government. Only the sections with RED under them are government-exclusive allocations.
  • People don't realize the spectrum only seems small. I dream of cable TV being sent to the home, car, handheld, etc by celluar radio. Gigabit wireless, hundreds of thousands of broadcast channels, and more brought to you by EHF. EHF is the portion between 30 GHz and Infared (300 GHz). Public safety would beneift as these frequencies as not many buildings can block EHF. Police would be able to see a picture from an APB (if avalible) along with the audio description. There would be no more long antennas
    • Everything at such a high frequency will have to be line-of-site, however, as there's no hope of bouncing off the ionosphere or anything.

      It could be done, yes, but it'd involve quite a high investment.
      • Everything at such a high frequency will have to be line-of-site, however, as there's no hope of bouncing off the ionosphere or anything.

        The 1.7 and 2.1 GHz frequencies that are the subject of this article don't bounce off the ionosphere worth a shit either.

        I suspect the real reason is the relative maturity and low cost of L band microwave doodads, as opposed to the cost and development effort required to deploy devices at (say) 90 GHz that develop more than a few milliwatts of RF.

        ...laura

        • The 1.7 and 2.1 GHz frequencies that are the subject of this article don't bounce off the ionosphere worth a shit either.

          No they don't skip, but they propogate via groundwave just fine, hence, you don't need direct line-of-sight everywhere.

          Imagine a cellphone that drops the call if a bird goes between you and the top of the 90GHz radio tower. Imagine a cellphone that can't recieve calls while clipped on your belt.

          Infrared is the PERFECT model for what happens at 30GHz+... It's like communicating by invisi

  • by HermanAB (661181)
    all of 90MHz. I'm about as impressed as a sloth who just found another shady tree branch to hang from - yawn...

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