Globalstar’s WiFi Proposal on FCC Agenda

Satellite phone provider Globalstar is proposing a Terrestrial Low Power Service, that would roll out a private WiFi network in the 2.4 GHz spectrum, adjacent to channel 11 on the WiFi band, but separate from it.

Globalstar would add a 4th (private) WiFi channel, touching the top of today’s 2.4 GHz WiFi band. The unlicensed 2.4 GHz WiFi band has only three (clear) 20 MHz channels. Globalstar’s proposal is on the FCC’s meeting agenda this month.

If TLPS gets the okay, Globalstar plans to start with a network of 20,000 hotspots covering schools, hospitals and charities, all of which would get access to the network free of charge, reports GigaOm.

But Globalstar can’t do it by themselves. They are asking the FCC to let the company tap a 10.5 MHz chunk of frequencies in the neighboring unlicensed band.

Globalstar would use 11.5 MHz in its satellite band and 10.5MHz in the WiFi band to create a full 22 MHz Wi-Fi channel. But it abuts the top of the WiFi band and could cause interference, say skeptics, like Public Knowledge legal director Harold Feld.

Globalstar plans to expand that network in public spaces, and charge carriers, ISPs and device makers (such as Amazon) to access it.

Globalstar uses 1610-1618.725 MHz for uplinks and 2.4 GHz for downlinks. But satphones are rarely used in urban areas (or indoors) so interference would apparently be a manageable problem for Globalstar.

The 2.4 GHz WiFi band is not the only “free” spectrum under attack. Private companies like cable conglomerates and mobile operators want a piece of the unlicensed 5 GHz band.

The WiFiForward coalition, launched last month, is calling for policymakers to open up more unlicensed spectrum. In a speech at the National Press Club for the WiFiForward coalition, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, one of three Democrats on the five-member FCC, extolled the virtues of unlicensed wireless.

“We can take the flexible Wi-Fi rules that have already been the script for an unlicensed success story in the 5.725-5.825 GHz band [which can use 1 Watt radios and high gain antennas] and expand them to the 5.15-5.25 GHz band [limited to indoor 50mW radios]. If we do, we could effectively double unlicensed bandwidth in the 5 GHz band overnight. That will mean more unlicensed service—and less congestion on licensed wireless networks. That’s win-win.”

Qualcomm is also promoting the use of LTE in the unlicensed bands.

WiFiForward members include Comcast, Time Warner Cable, NCTA, CEA, Google, Microsoft and others. Comcast and TWC, for example, hope to use the 5 GHz band for their own community networking, using as much as 160 MHz of the “free” unlicensed 5 GHz band.

Unfortunately for Comcast, the four high power unlicensed channels at 5.8 GHz are often congested by users who don’t pay the company any money.

The U-NII band covers 5.15-5.35 GHz and (more recently), the 5.470-5.825 GHz range. The 802.11a standard defines 12 fixed, nonoverlapping channels for use in the 5.0 GHz U-NII band. The new 802.11ac standard increased the channel width significantly, up to 160 MHz wide. Wireless ISPs generally use 5.725-5.825 GHz band, which allows for higher power, especially useful in pt to pt or point to multi-point backhaul connections.

The Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA), whose members include Google, Microsoft, and Facebook (but not cable or mobile operators), has filed with the FCC to open more unlicensed spectrum in the U.S..

The DSA is asking the FCC to open access to unused radio frequencies in the 600 MHz, 3.5 GHz, and 5 GHz bands. According to the DSA:

“Sufficient usable unlicensed spectrum must remain available in 600 MHz bands. When allocating the spectrum made available as a result of the digital television transition and repacking the 600 MHz broadcast bands, the Commission should strike the right balance between exclusive-use licensed access and non-exclusive, open, unlicensed access.”

Related Dailywireless articles include; FCC Commissioner: Higher Power in Lower 5 GHz, FCC Moves to Add 195 MHz to Unlicensed 5 GHz band, Amazon Tests Wireless Service with Globalstar, GlobalStar Promotes “Licensed” WiFi in 2.4 GHz band, FCC Expands 2.4 GHz WiFi with GlobalStar Channel, Amazon & Globalstar Test Wireless Service, GlobalStar Promotes “Licensed” WiFi in 2.4 GHz band, GlobalStar Gets Flack on New 2.4 GHz Channel, Globalstar: Voice is Back!, FCC Moves to Add 195 MHz to Unlicensed 5 GHz band, FCC Adding 200 MHz to WiFi Band, FCC Paves Way for 3.5GHz Band Nationwide, Spectrum Database Opens Up 5GHz, Spectrum War: Unlicensed, Shared and Auctioned,

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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