Year End Wrap

It was a landmark year for wireless communications. Here are some year end wraps from around the web and our own highlights. Predictions and dubious achievements to follow.

3G Band Scam?

The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said today the reallocating 45 MHz of government spectrum earmarked for 3G would cost $936 million. The FCC hopes to auction off the new bands for 3G phones this summer, harmonizing a dedicated “3G” band with other countries. The NTIA claims this new band will provide new telecommunications competition in the U.S.

But will it?

The 1710-1755 Mhz and 2110-2155 Mhz band was identified in NTIA’s July, 2002 Viability Assessment. They said that spectrum, currently used by a dozen government agencies, could be moved without disrupting communications systems critical to national security. It would make room for some 90 MHz of commercial spectrum. Last year, the FCC notified the NTIA that it would auction the first half of that spectrum–45 MHz in the lower half of the 1.7 GHz band–as soon as 2006.

The Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) Auction (service rules pdf) is likely to happen this summer. The good news is that the new 1.7/2.1 GHz band falls under Part 27 FCC Rules, the same rules and terms as the 2.5 GHz BRS band that Sprint and Clearwire are expected to utilize for Mobile WiMax. Sprint and Samsung will begin field trials of Mobile WiMax next year in the U.S.

Telephony says:

While the spectrum has been labeled as 3G spectrum, it won’t necessarily go to cellular carriers. The FCC has mandated that any broadband wireless service could be built on the spectrum, leaving the door open for future WiMAX deployments. The second half of the 90 MHz identified by the FCC is in the lower 2.1 GHz bands, but the FCC has set no timeline yet for its auction.

But the 1710-1755 band and the 2110-2155 band is not about WiMAX competition. The AWS band is duplex. It’s a 3G cellular play. Who benefits from auctioning duplex 5 MHz channels? Mostly SBC.

Sprint and Verizon use 1.25 Mhz wide EVDO channels. They don’t much need a new UMTS band using a different, less efficient and incompatible 3G technology. Their current EV-DO technology works fine on their current bands. Verizon and Sprint are pretty well fixed. Still, opening up the new 1710/2100 frequencies for 3G phones does make sense. Cellular usage is growing and 3G phones in other countries already use at least some of those frequencies. Global roaming could be harmonized. That would be good for SBC.

It won’t help Mobile WiMax. WiMax is optimized for simplex (TDD) voice and data.

A TDD base station allows the use of a single frequency for both uplink and downlink in the communication channel. Mobile WiMax uses SCOFDMA with techniques like beamforming and MIMO which work best in simplex. WiMax would be marginalized using duplex.

Block Total MHz Pairings Geographic Area
A 20 1710-1720 and 2110-2120 MHz Economic Area (EA)
B 20 1720-1730 and 2120-2130 MHz Regional Economic Area Group (REAG)
C 10 1730-1735 and 2130-2135 MHz REAG
D 10 1735-1740 and 2135-2140 MHz Cellular Market Area (CMA)
E 30 1740-1755 and 2140-2155 MHz REAG

Sprint could get 700 Mhz in a swap; public service users get Nextel/iDen in exchange for new 700 Mhz bands for Sprint-Nextel. Nextel’s commercial iDen users might be phased out while 700 Mhz broadband voice and data is phased in. Competitor Verizon could buy 700 Mhz frequencies from Aloha Partners if they wanted to play that game. Both might use Flarion/MediaFLO rather than Mobile WiMax.

While 700 Mhz may travel 3 times further than 2.5 GHz Mobile WiMax, there’s not much capacity available — only 6 Mhz per channel. A typical 2.5GHz (BRS) Mobile WiMax license is 15 Mhz wide. But a pair of 6 Mhz Flarion channels combined with Qualcomm’s entertainment-oriented MediaFLO could provide voice and data — inside and out.

It’s also conceivable that DirecTV and Echostar could use 1710/2100 frequencies for backhaul and “quad play” (voice, video, data and wireless). MIMO access points like Ruckus deliver wireless HDTV around the house. A WiFi/3G phone provides mobility. It’s rumored that SBC may buy Echostar.

Two channel (duplex) channels are needed for SBC (and possibily) T-Mobile USA. Only Cingular utilizes GSM-based UMTS with 5 MHz W-CDMA channels in the United States. Their UMTS 3G requires a forklift upgrade. Or a new band.Global spectrum availability varies from region to region and appears to be just as screwed up elsewhere. WiMax tends to be focused on 2.5 GHz bands in the U.S., Brazil, Mexico and Canada while the rest of the world uses the 2.3 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands (for mobile and fixed). Still, Australia, Asia, South America and Europe seem to encourage real wireless broadband competition.

In the United States, the FCC and the NTIA have shunted WiMax “competition” to the 2.5GHz band. That’s largely controlled by one company — Sprint.

Sprint will not undercut their own cellular service with Mobile WiMax. That’s a given. So how can 2.5 GHz Mobile WiMax hope to provide real competition in the United States? It can’t.

In the 3.5 GHz band, the U.S. military and contractors like Raytheon broke global harmonization in the 3.3-3.8 GHz band for broadband wireless. As WiMax begins to roll out, broadband wireless providers may increasingly complain that the NTIA has caved in to military demands and beltway politics.

Has the NTIA and FCC sold out?

We do have have a coherent broadband policy…and it’s working”, said NTIA administrator Michael Gallagher earlier this year.

In a panel discussion at the Progress & Freedom Foundation’s Aspen Summit, Gallagher defended the Bush administration’s efforts to promote the growth of broadband in the United States. The broadband policy was under assault from a number of speakers at the gathering, reports EE Times.

One of the most direct criticisms came from Nortel CEO Bill Owens, who told the audience that he didn’t see much in the telecom vision-thing from the current administration.

“I do believe we need a higher [telecom] vision for America,” said Owens, who held up the high-speed broadband deployments in countries like Korea and India as examples of forward-thinking vision in action. “Where is our equivalent vision, as a nation?” asked Owens, a U.S. citizen who leads Nortel, which is headquarted in Canada (Brampton, Ontario).

Michael Gallagher (bio) is the Bush appointee heading the NTIA. He took issue with the charges that U.S. telecom-policy was lacking.

“I totally disagree with him [Owens],” Gallagher said, in an interview following his own panel discussion, which centered on wireless spectrum policy reform. “The President set a goal of affordable, universally available broadband by 2007, and we’re sticking to it”.

The NTIA’s Office of Policy Analysis and Development supports NTIA’s role as principal adviser to the President, Vice President, and Secretary of Commerce on telecommunications and information policies. Maps can be found on the FCC’s website and the NTIA Frequency Allocation Chart.

One of the examples Gallagher cited as proof was the opening of 90 Mhz of spectrum at 1.7/2.1 GHz (see DW: President Wants 90MHz). The spectrum will be broken up in smaller geographic portions in order for smaller carriers to bid on them.

Whether large telecom (cellular) companies will actually put up the front money and control those frequencies remains to be seen.Not mentioned by Gallagher was the buyout and elimination of 2.3 GHz broadband wireless by XM radio, the domination of licensed 2.5 GHz by Sprint, the power limitation of 5.4GHz, the elimination of telco DSL competition, the rural restrictions of 3.5GHz, silence on attempts to ban virtually all municipal networks, a screwed up DTV system and the general lack of affordable broadband and competition in the United States.

What kind of policy is that?

The FCC’s Cellular plan for 3G in the U.S. seems more like a Cingular plan, while the FCC’s broadband wireless plan seems more like a Sprint plan. Or is that just me?

Media companies in the United States may soon take their marching orders from cellular providers who will control their destiny.

Related DailyWirless articles include; HSDPA: Operation Grand Slam?, HSDPA Deployments Cingular Push to Talk, Cell Vs City Clouds: The Battle Begins, T-Mobile’s HSDPA Move, Verizon Expands EV-DO, Cuts Price, Verizon Tests Rev A, Sprint Rolls Out EV-DO, Cingular’s 3G Network, Sprint + Lucent for EV-DO, Jacobs: Cellular Beats WiMax, Verizon Tests Rev A, Finland Goes Flarion, Qualcomm Buys Flarion, T-Mobile’s HSDPA Move, HSPDA in China, Verizon Expands EV-DO, Cuts Price, Sprint Rolls Out EV-DO, Verizon EV-DO in Seattle, Portland & NYC, HSPDA Tests, 3G: HSPDA or Not?, CDMA vs OFDM, Mobile WiMax: It’s Alive!, 16e: Backward Compatibility – NOT, Flarion Testing WiFi Handoff, Banning Broadband Everywhere, City Clouds Save Money, Mobile WiMax – Now?, Laptop with EDGE, HSPDA & WiMax Living Together?, WiMax Over Hyped?, HSPDA Demos, Sprint Commits to EV-DO, Verizon Expands EV-DO, Cuts Price, 3G: HSDPA or Not?, and Cellular At The Races.

iPod News

The Washington Post’s Rob Pegoraro explains what the new video IPod has to offer. Here’s more help on Getting video onto your iPod, iPod Photocasting, DVD to iPod – Conversion (Mac), and PSP Conversion. StaxRip, a free open source application, claims to convert DVD’s, DVB or DV captures to x264, AAC, XviD, AC3, MP3, AVI, MKV, DIVX. MSpot has announced its “Mobile Box Office” service, which will offer movies split into segments for mobile viewing. Samsung’s AnyFilms showcases cell-phone oriented films.
Different people have different opinions on Top 40 Podcasts and The Top 10 Podcast Episodes of 2005. LibriVox has free audio book downloads. Google Video has tons. Here’s Diana Krall covering Jingle Bells. has nearly 30,000 public domain movies. Here’s Duck and Cover, a Civil Defense film from the 1950s. iPod Bittorrents help. Daily Wireless has more on Portable Photostories. Sony will launch their Librie E-Book reader (right) at CES 2006. E Ink forms text and pictures by charging colored capsules.

Newspapers sold $48 billion in advertising in 2004, while Television sold $47 billion last year. B to B magazines margins plunged, on average, from 11.0% in 1999 to 0.6% in 2003. According to Forrester Research, online advertising totals only about five percent of the $400 billion spent on advertising of all types each year in the U.S. Pay per click is up. Way up.That’s good news for cellular operators. They run the show.

Happy Holidays!

Here’s Christmas on the 10th floor of Meier & Frank, a Multimedia Slide Show By Rob Finch of The Oregonian. The Amazon Web Services Blog (podcast) has the tools to construct your own mall.

Act One:

After he goes to Jerusalem and sleeps on what is supposedly the very spot where Jesus was crucified, Kevin Kelly has a revelation: that he should live the next six months as if he would die at the end of them.

We at DailyWireless (Sam Churchll and Don Park), want to take this opportunity to wish you all the best. Christmas in Paradise (mp3).

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

Remember me? The kid you brought a red Schwinn bike in 1959? I’m back with a new Christmas list.

Hey, I know I’m a little old for this, but when you get to be my age it’s mostly ties and sweaters from everybody else, and I really, really need this stuff. Please help me out.

…Santa, could you bring me a new FCC? My old one’s on the blink.

The Federal Communications Commission, you know, is the government agency that regulates TV and radio stations. It’s run by a five-member board that, in recent years, hasn’t been as focused on the interests of ordinary citizens as much as the huge-and-getting-huger media companies.

That makes me sad, Santa.

The FCC should be operating in the public’s behalf, since the airwaves that carry broadcast programming are publicly owned. That’s right, Santa! The air you and your eight tiny reindeer will be flying through across the U.S. is a public resource, not private property.

So maybe Christmas Eve you could pack your sleigh with a few new commissioners eager to serve the public interest, rather than big business…

AP Television Writer