FCC and CTIA Agree: More Spectrum!

The CTIA Wireless Association has issued a statement to the FCC asking it to “find” an addition 800 Mhz of spectrum. The CTIA says commercial cellular operators need 800 MHz of spectrum by 2015. Currently, the entire cellular industry uses only about 410 MHz.

The CTIA also asked the feds to immediately open up 50 MHz for commercial wireless services immediately.

The CTIA’s top lobbyist, Chris Guttman-McCabe wrote in the ex-parte filing pdf:


“Without swift and bold action by U.S. policymakers to free up a critical national resource — our nation’s airwaves — consumers and businesses in this country will find themselves unable to reap the full benefits of the mobile broadband age.”

“…As the Chairman and other FCC Commissioners understand, spectrum is our industry’s backbone and is what encourages innovation and competition,” said CEO Steve Largent. “The industry needs access to more spectrum so we can continue to meet the growing consumer demand – whether it’s for personal reasons such as health or for environmental reasons such as smart grids”.

That request came as the FCC was preparing its mid-term report on the national broadband plan (pdf and slides).

The total cost of developing a universal broadband plan for the United States could run as high as $350 billion, but the plan would produce major economic and social benefits ranging from improving healthcare and education, according to the report.

The huge price tag dwarfs the $7.2 billion earmarked in President Obama’s economic stimulus program. The task force estimated universal broadband deployment costs would range between $20 billion and $350 billion. The highest figure calls for providing service at 100 Mbps or faster.

The report, prepared to help FCC commissioners develop a national broadband plan for Congress, was prepared after information and suggestions were acquired from about 230 witnesses who presented evidence and opinion at 26 hearings and workshops. In addition to laying the groundwork for the February report to Congress, the report discussed the present state of broadband in the United States.

The task force was clear on the issue of spectrum — much more is needed, particularly as smartphone sales overtake sales of standard phones by 2011.

“Actual broadband speeds lag advertised speeds by at least 50% and possibly more during the busy hours,” according to the report. “Peak usage hours, typically 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., create network congestion and speed degradation. About 1% of users drive 20% of traffic, while 20% of users drive up to 80% of traffic.”

Where will they find spectrum? The DOD is probably worried that they’ll be the first target of opportunity. And why not — the military uses more commercial satellite phone and commercial fixed satellite time than any commercial user. They don’t seem to worry about security using commercial satellite links. With encryption, terrestrial links could also be shared.

The US Military Paid $80M for Iridium Services. Marines deployed inland, communicate back to sea using Iridium. The DOD buys contracts from all the cellular operators. Meanwhile the $100B JTRS radio program squandered billions while the $20B Transformation Communications Satellite System, it might be argued, has been a stark failure.

The DOD now spends hundreds of billions building proprietary radio networks that just don’t work. With the right plan, lightly used shared frequencies might be used by public service, DOD and commercial users, benefiting everyone.

The CTIA (wikipedia) primarily represents the interests of wireless telecommunications companies. Their board is a mix of service providers, manufacturers and wireless data companies, as well as other contributors to the wireless industry.

Google Earth Gets “Live” Overlay

Remember how you had to explain to everyone that Google Earth wasn’t “live”.

Well forget that.

Georgia Institute of Technology students have succeeded in mapping and animating the real time movements of cars, people and clouds as an integrated overlay on Google Earth (blog) and Microsoft’s Virtual Earth (blog). Their “real-time” views require a significant amount of back end processing, however.

Using multiple traffic cameras, for example, and motion capture software, cars are transformed into graphic icons. As they move beyond visible camera coverage, they are mathematically animated along the highway until they reach the next camera. The 3D icons also enable 3D fly-bys. The team have succeeded in mapping the real time movements of cars, people and clouds. Next month, at the IEEE International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality, in Orlando, they expect to add weather patterns, birds and river motions.

In other news, TrafficCast real-time traffic flow software, runs on mobile devices and GPS navigators, estimates how long it will take to reach a destination. It now provides road speed forecasts 48 hours in advance in over 100 markets in the United States, in addition to current traffic conditions.

Open Source: Moving Up


The power of imagination makes us infinite. - John Muir

Portland, Oregon, is adopting a resolution designed to officially make Portland a more open city, reports journalist Rick Turoczy.

It will formalize the city’s commitment to open source — both with their data and with their computer systems.

If the resolution passes, this Wednesday at the City Council meeting, it opens City data to the outside world and will require that the city give open source choices consideration during purchasing decisions.


UPDATE: Skip Newberry with the Mayor’s Office announced that the city council unanimously approved the Open Data/Open Source resolution today.

Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell has 10 tech initiatives that air to prepare the city’s public data for Web-friendly browsing. They are launching a one-stop online shop (MySeattle.gov) where residents can access city services, vote on or discuss ideas, and even make it possible for residents to report potholes with a tap on their cell phones. A simple version of the Seattle data portal is set to launch by the end of the year. In Washington, D.C., an iPhone application called AreYouSafeDC uses mapped crime data to tell you how safe you are where you stand. And in the United Kingdom, FixMyStreet.com forwards cell phone-submitted street problems to the appropriate government agency.

This August, the city of San Francisco launched an effort to build a publicly accessible database of machine-readable, API-accessible government data called DataSF.org. It can be used by developers to create new mashup apps applications, mixing sites like Google Maps and platforms like the iPhone, with public data.

EcoFinder (left), is an iPhone application that helps residents recycle based on their location. It was built using recycling data released by the city’s Department of Energy.

DataSF.org currently includes more than 100 datasets, from a range of city departments, including the San Francisco Police Department, Department of Public Works, and the Municipal Transportation Agency. Users can search for datasets as well as add tags, ratings and comments to the available data. There’s also an option to request new or additional sets of data.

Mayor Gavin Newsom wrote in a blog post, “We hope DataSF.org will create a torrent of innovation similar to when the developer community was given access to the platforms behind popular technologies and devices like Facebook and Apple’s iPhone.”

Portland is the home of Linux creator Linus Torvalds, wiki inventor Ward Cunningham, mobile development shops like Small Society (which built iPhone apps for Obama, Starbucks, ZipCar and others), Urban Airship (an iPhone push infrastructure), and our own Android guru, Don Park.

Open source resource mapping projects like Oregon Explorer (www.oregonexplorer.info) and Willamette Basin Explorer (willametteexplorer.info) can make databases, created by government silos, available to everyone using the expertise of Oregon State’s Open Source Lab. OpenOceanMap (ohloh.net) is an ambitious project to break the ties of traditional geo-spatial data collection and develop a truly cross platform, Open Source, and transportable decision support tool. Their Gulf Project demo shows the utility of combining open source data bases.

Local governments that have made their 3D data available on Google Earth include Boston Redevelopment Authority, City of Amherst, Massachusetts, and Boise, Idaho.

The Washington State Department of Transportation, charged with monitoring more than 18,300 miles of state highways and 3,600 bridges, is creating a single, seamless repository of transportation information covering the entire state — from the small private road to the primary arterials. The system integrates disparate county data into a centralized database. The team chose Vancouver, BC-based Safe Software’s FME which enables GIS professionals to translate, transform, integrate and distribute spatial data from more than 225 formats.

The Linux Foundation supports the Linux community by offering technical information and education through its annual events, such as the Linux Collaboration Summit, the Linux Kernel Summit, and the general LinuxCon event, inaugurated in September 2009.

Libelium says they have the world’s only multiprotocol mesh router to combine Wifi, ZigBee, GPRS, Bluetooth and GPS technologies. Their Meshlium device can also be powered by solar panels, or connected to the power supply or car lighter.

Libelium released an open source licensed Meshlium Manager System 2.0 software, from which you can configure wireless interfaces, GPRS, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and GPS Meshlium multiprotocol router.

The Meshlium Manager System is the first application made with free software that allows you to configure routers for creating mesh networks, says the company. This software is Open Source and the code is released under the terms of the GPL2 License.

Some of the improvements of this version are the addition of a RADIUS server for WPA2 authentication and an editor of AT commands for the ZigBee module. But the most important one, says the company, is its new plugin system that allows adding features in a simple and scalable way.

Another organizatin, Open-Mesh, is a group of volunteers dedicated to community-owned WiFi. Their primary mission is to develop WiFi deployment models that are flexible and affordable enough to work in low-income and developing areas of the world, yet powerful and reliable enough to thrive in commercial applications.

They are guided by several principles:

  • The firmware should be open-source. It should contain as little “compiled” code as possible so it can be understood, extended, and modified by users.
  • The platform should be open to all manufacturers. Not only will we “tolerate” competing products, but we will actively promote and encourage them. All hardware should be easily “reflashable” to encourage modification, extension or even replacement with other solutions.
  • You should own your own network. Management should be available as a free “hosted” solution, but you should also be able to run your own dashboard, either by writing your own or by using open-source solutions.
  • Products should be as low-cost as possible so they can be affordable for those that need them the most.

Many manufacturers, including Accton, Engenius, Ubiquiti and Wiligear, build compatible products and promote the Open-Mesh project. Captive Portal providers include Coova, WiFi-CPA, WifiGator and Worldspot.net and open-source dashboard projects such as Orange Mesh.

If the goal is free internet access (with or without advertising), then one solution may be unused tv channels (white spaces). They can cover a city block, inside and out. For backbone, the 2150-2180 Mhz band is available.

This resource is unused and costs nothing. Android and Apple demonstrated the untapped creative power of individuals. It has empowered everyone. “Walled gardens” are anathema to this freedom.

San Francisco’s solar-powered transit shelter WiFi will generate at least $300 million for over the 20-year term of the contract, says The City. The solar-powered shelters, the first of at least 1,100, will replace existing shelters around the City.

“Transit shelters that use photovoltaics, LEDs, and WiFi are going to be standard in the future – and I’m proud that San Francisco is once again acting like the pacecar for other cities by trying and implementing these technologies,” said Mayor Newsom.


In other news, on October 8, 2009, the DOE announced $10M in grants for 40 new Solar America Cities Special Projects in 16 cities.

Portland was awarded funding for the Solar America Cities Program. Project partners will work with other city bureaus to streamline city-level regulations for contractors, homeowners, and businesses.

The city will use its influence as a regulator, educator, and motivator to reach the larger regional community. In partnership with the DOE, the City of Portland expects to have become a leader in solar energy by 2010.

Certified “N”

The Wi-Fi Alliance has begun product testing for its Wi-Fi CERTIFIED n program, updating its two-year-old Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 802.11n draft 2.0 program.

The updated Wi-Fi CERTIFIED n program maintains the requirements of the draft 2.0 program and adds testing for some new optional features, including:

  • Test support for simultaneous transmission of up to three spatial streams
  • Packet aggregation (A-MPDU), to make data transfers more efficient
  • Space-time Block Coding (STBC), a multiple-antenna encoding technique to improve reliability in some environments
  • Channel coexistence measures for “good neighbor” behavior when using 40 MHz operation in the 2.4 GHz band

Chipmaker Broadcom today announced that its Intensi-fi router and client reference designs are among the first products to obtain CERTIFIED n designation from the Wi-Fi Alliance, based on the newly ratified IEEE 802.11n standard.

Wi-Fi certification signifies that products from different vendors have been demonstrated to interoperate. The Wi-Fi Alliance selected the Broadcom BCM94718 and BCM943224 dual band (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) reference designs to be part of its Wi-Fi CERTIFIED n test bed, which other 802.11n products are tested to guarantee interoperability.

Other devices that have been submitted to the WiFi Alliance for “N” certification include:

  • Atheros XSPAN Dual-band 2.4/5GHz PCIe MiniCard for Computing Designs, Full MIMO Configuration
  • Atheros XSPAN Dual-band, Dual-concurrent 2.4/5GHz, Gigabit Reference
  • Intel Ultimate N WiFi Link 5300
  • Marvell Smart Wi-Fi 802.11n 3×3 450 Mbps Dual-Band Access Point
  • Ralink 3×3 AP

According to ABI Research, 802.11n represented 22% of all Wi-Fi products sold in 2008, approximately 45% in 2009, and will be nearly 60% in 2010. This year, revenue from 802.11n chips is expected to top $2 billion with 90% of Wi-Fi enabled laptops already use 802.11n, says the research company.

AT&T/TerreStar: Dual-mode Satphone

AT&T has announced a dual-mode satphone that will combine AT&T’s cellular connectivity with Terrestar’s satellite network, using one phone number and one device.

The TerreStar Genus dual-mode smartphone, about the size and shape of a Blackberry, gives users the option to access the TerreStar satellite network when the AT&T cellular wireless network is unavailable.

The dual-mode smartphone (pdf) combines GSM, GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, and HSDPA terrestrial wireless, through AT&T’s cellular network, as well as Terrestar’s satellite voice and data capabilities, in one small handset.

At $799 for the phone, plus $24.99 a month for satellite connectivity, it won’t be cheap. On top of that charge, voice costs 65 cents per minute, and data is $5 a megabyte. But it’s cheaper than the $1/minute most satphone companies charge — plus you have the cellular option.

The TerreStar Genus phone runs on the Windows Mobile and includes a 2.6-inch touch screen, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. Dual-mode service will be available in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and in territorial waters.

If you don’t mind a little editorial:

Oregon is spending $414 million for a massive emergency radio network (pdf), but a new report to lawmakers says the state lacks the necessary oversight to prevent the project from wasting taxpayer money or going off the rails. The project, like New York’s failed $2B statewide system, would use $3,500 (P-25) radios that cost more and do less.

Every emergency management office in the country ought to get a dozen of these phones. It’s cheap insurance. Cellular connectivity makes these satphones practical, the satellite connectivity provides reliable coverage almost everywhere.

Public service radio networks and cellular towers WILL go down — when you need them most. Let cellular companies build out the 700 MHz public service infrastructure — not taxpayers. I believe cellular companies encouraged the legislature to build this 700MHz network so they wouldn’t have to.

End of editorial.

With an antenna almost 60 feet across, and supporting 500 dynamically-configurable spot beams, TerreStar-1 will surpass the signal sensitivity and spot beam generation capability of all commercial satellites currently in orbit.

Harris Corporation says their 18-meter antenna reflector is fully deployed in its intended position onboard TerreStar-1. Space Systems/Loral controllers sent the commands to unfurl the reflector this July. The Harris antenna reflector makes it possible for the TerreStar-1 satellite to focus the 2 GHz S-band signals on the United States and Canada in order to provide these Mobile Satellite Services (MSS).

AT&T Mobility will utilize both services; Terrestar’s satellite and AT&T’s terrestrial cellular service by the end of this year. The first handset, which will use separate cellular and satellite chips, will cost about US$700 without a carrier subsidy. It will provide voice service as well as data at approximately 64K bits per second. TerreStar’s major investors are Harbinger Capital Partners and satellite TV company EchoStar.

TerreStar’s network will operate in two 10-Mhz blocks of contiguous MSS spectrum in the 2 GHz band throughout the United States and Canada – with a spectrum footprint that covers a population of nearly 330 million.

Most satellite phones, like low earth orbit Iridium and Globalstar operate in the 1616 – 1626.5 MHz region of the L-Band.

Several years ago, the FCC authorized additional mobile satellite services (MSS) systems in a new 2 GHz band. Terrestar and Craig McCaw’s ICO won the slots. ICO launched its first GEO satellite on April 14, 2008. It features a 12-meter reflector that focuses the 2 GHz signals on North America. ICO plans to address multi-media delivery to automobiles. But the service has stalled, and recently the stock has dipped under $1 a share on the NASDAQ.

Low orbit satphones, like Iridium and Globalstar, don’t offer dual-mode phones. Those satellites orbit several hundred miles high, unlike Terrestar, which is a geosynchronous satellite. Terrestar users won’t need a small box, like Inmarsat’s BGAN service (left).

Inmarsat delivers faster speeds then other satphone providers, but requires a separate antenna and can’t connect (directly) with handhelds. Inmarsat also provides SwiftBroadband channels for aircraft, providing backbone connections for communication and cabin WiFi.

Terrestar ‘s space-based 60 foot dish provides hundreds of concentrated spotbeams, in contrast to other LEO or GEO satphone providers. It uses the S-band (2000-2010 MHz, 2190-2200 MHz). Terrestrial user can also use AT&T’s terrestrial cellular network (at 850/900/1800/1900 MHz).

Terrestar won’t be alone in offering dual-mode satphones for long. In the first quarter of 2010, Skyterra (below), an associated company with Terrastar, will deploy two geostationary satellites, each with a 22 meter antennas using the L-band (1.6 GHz).

Motorola is supporting Skyterra’s satphone network with a terrestrial 700 MHz phone for public safety broadband. A dual mode phone from Motorola will provide both broadband satellite and 700 MHz terrestrial devices for the public safety community. Motorola also supports optional ATC use. SkyTerra will use Software Defined Radios in their handsets, operating on GSM, GPRS, EDGE, W-CDMA and HSDPA networks.

SkyTerra is being acquired by its largest shareholder, Harbinger Capital Partners, in a deal that will take SkyTerra private. Terms were not disclosed.

There’s still an elephant in the room — ATC.

Ancillary Terrestrial Component enhances the coverage of the satellite network by rebroadcasting the service terrestrially — similar to satellite radio. But ATC frequencies can also be used as a terrestrial cellular service. A key US regulation, the Ancillary Terrestrial Component Order of 2003, uniquely permits satellite operators to offer simultaneous satellite and cellular services.

In the “S” band (2GHz), TerreStar has the right to use 20 MHz of its spectrum terrestrially, as does ICO. In the 1.6 GHz “L” band, MSV’s Skyterra has a similar capability, while LEO satphone provider Globalstar will use 11 MHz of its 1.6/2.4 GHz satellite radio frequencies for a complementary terrestrial wireless service. Globalstar is in partnership with Open Range, which hopes to offer state-of-the-art 4G services to un-served and underserved customers across America in the fourth quarter of this year.

New ABI Research forecasts, some three million satellite-capable LTE smartphones will be shipped in North America in 2012. But, according to the same research, the promising forecast is contingent upon the 4G strategies of US cellular network operators.

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OLPC 1.5 Laptops: Free for 30 Developers

The One Laptop Per Child folks in Cambridge, Massachusets, have about 30 Pre-release OLPC XO 1.5 laptops lying around, says Liliputing, which they’re willing to send out to developers working on hardware software for the XO. In order to apply, check out the official OLPC blog post. Suggested projects include developing a voice chat application, media editing, programming activities, or an improved eBook reader.

The next-generation XO Laptops use a 1GHz VIA C7-M processors instead of the slower 433MHz AMD Geode CPU found in the original XO Laptop.

It could be a while before the laptops are made available to the general public and/or governments and schools.