Hey, what’s the deal with Dailywireless?

Is Dailywireless kaput? Is Sam Churchill, dead? How come no posts in a couple of months? Regular viewers of Dailywireless have been sending me get well cards, great artisan coffee and many kind words.

I’m not dead, but Dailywireless has fallen into a coma. I’m contemplating pulling the plug. It’s been a good 12 year run.

Don Park and I started it in March of 2002. That was before smartphones or 4G, before Netflix or Youtube, before AdSense, and before terrific tools like Techmeme began aggregating content better than humans. The mission of Dailywireless always remained the same; to spread the word about fast, cheap wireless internet access. And by “cheap” we meant “free”.

Back in 2002, Don and I had seen WiFi clients go from $800 to $200 and Portland’s Personal Telco Project, a community non-profit, was installing “free” internet access in pubs and coffee shops. We wanted to spread the word with Dailywireless.org.

Community WiFi networks became all the rage in 2005-6. By late 2007 the movement was all but dead. It was killed by high costs of thousands of nodes, poor coverage and reliability, and 4G standards using licensed bands, first WiMax and then LTE.

City-wide WiFi projects include Chicago – 220 square miles, 7,500 access points, costing $18.5 Million, Google’s Mountain View network – 12 square miles, 400 access points, Houston – 640 square miles at $50 Million and Corpus Christi – 147 square miles, $7.1 Million. They average out to 35 APs per square mile.` Large, city-wide WiFi projects (mostly) didn’t work because Wi-Fi is short-range and has a massive noise floor.

Smartphones and cellular connectivity soon became the fastest growing phenomena the world has ever seen. Global mobile subscribers have surpassed 7 Billion, up from 7 Million in 1989. Mobile subs will surpass the world’s population in 2015.

Meanwhile, unlicensed WiFi became bigger than anyone had imagined. When smartphones became ubiquitous, they needed indoor penetration and lots of bandwidth. WiFi was often the technology of choice. Everyone needed it. Every smartphone had it.

The FCC expanded the 5 GHz band to nearly 1 GHz. The IEEE ran out of letters, developing the 802.11ac and 802.11ad standards, incorporating MIMO and other techniques to take advantage of new spectrum. Meanwhile, Bluetooth, iBeacon, the Internet of Things, drones, balloons, High Throughput satellites, white spaces, 3.5 GHz, and 70/80 GHz have percolated up in a primordial alphabet soup.

The 600 MHz auction, with some $60B on the table, could reshape the cellular industry while voice over LTE, LTE on unlicensed bands and software defined radios will lower costs, even as the cost of spectrum increases.

The AWS-3 auction raised $45 billion in 2014. But that auction totaled only 65 MHz compared to 84-100 MHz of longer range broadcast spectrum. If the AWS-3 auction generated $2.72/MHz-POP, then the broadcast auction might top $3/MHZ-POP. A MHz/Pop = MHz of license x Population covered. So 80 MHz of TV spectrum (20 MHz x 4 winning bidders) x 300M Pops = $24 billion @ $1MHz/Pop. At $3MHz/Pop it’s a $75 Billion investment.

Unlicensed White Spaces in the TV band may become a big deal. Fixed and personal/portable white space devices can operate in the 600 MHz band, including the duplex gap and guard bands. The duplex gap is the space between the licensed uplink and downlink channels in the 600 MHz band. The guard band between wireless downlink services and TV spectrum could be seven, nine or 11 megahertz. Unlicensed will also be allowed in channels 14-20. Fixed devices are permitted to operate with up to one watt transmitter power output and may use an antenna that provides up to 6 dBi of gain to produce a maximum power of 4 watts EIRP. They may not operate on channels adjacent to those occupied by TV stations.

The ITU has defined 5G (IMT-2020) as 10 Gbps with peak speeds at 20 Gbps, downloading an ultra high-definition movie in 10 seconds. “Wireless cable” may be near. Like the singularity. All you need is 100 MHz of spectrum. The cell average downlink throughput of MU-MIMOs is 1.34 Gbps, with 3.6 Gbps peak throughput in a 100 MHz ultra-wide band channel, according to Huawei.

Ten years ago, Brewster Kahle’s community WiFi network in San Francisco’s Precideo had a goal of $1 per month for every 1 Mbps of speed. Today $1 per month per 1 GByte of capacity seems doable. Speed? Where we’re going we don’t need to worry about speed.

Take Google Fiber, for instance. They’ll probably use a combination of unlicensed and licensed spectrum to reach phones.

Don and I never expected Dailywireless was going to make a lot of money. And it never did. That’s okay with us. It WAS fun.

Dailywireless was a long-term “notes to myself” project, just to keep track of wireless news. I’m glad others found it useful. Thanks for all your kind words and support.

But I need to move on with something fresh. My newest project is Gorge-VR.org, which experiments with VR and Google Cardboard. It’s also just for fun. I should get a real job, but I’m 66 years old, now. I figure I can do what I want.

Thanks everyone. I really enjoyed our time together.

– Sam Churchill
February, 2015