WorldVu Proposes Global LEO Broadband

According to the Wall Street Journal, Elon Musk is working with WorldVu Satellites which proposes to deliver Internet access across the globe. A network of 700 satellites in Low Earth Orbit would use the Ku band (12/14 GHz) to deliver broadband to end users. Industry officials estimate that it would cost $1 billion or more to develop the project.

Musk is working with Greg Wyler, a former Google executive and satellite-industry veteran. Wyler founded WorldVu Satellites which controls a large block of radio spectrum in the Ku band.

WorldVu hopes to bring the cost of manufacturing the satellites to under $1 million, with each satellite weighing about 250 pounds. The current WorldVu design has been granted radio spectrum rights by international regulators, to beam some 2 gigahertz of Ku-band (12/14 GHz) using nongeostationary satellites at between 800 and 950 kilometers in altitude.

The WorldVu satellite constellation would be 10 times the size of the current Iridium fleet. It is expected to require up to US$3 billion in capital by the time the full constellation becomes operational in 2019–2020. SpaceX, which has launched a dozen of its Falcon 9 rockets in the past five years, would likely launch the satellites.

O3b Networks, a previous satellite Internet startup founded by Mr. Wyler, has faced technical problems with the first four satellites it launched, which likely will shorten their lifespans. Today, satellites in the O3b constellation each weigh about 700 kg (1543 lbs), and were designed, tested and integrated by Thales Alenia Space. O3b serves large areas on either side of the equator with a constellation of eight satellites and is planning to launch four more by the end of the year. O3b is using Ka-band frequencies that were abandoned by the now-defunct Teledesic venture

Teledesic was the most ambitious of the early LEO broadband constellation proposals. Originally in 1994, 840 active satellites were planned, then 288 active satellites in 1997 after a Boeing-led redesign and before the merge with Motorola’s Celestri. Later it was reduced to a proposed 12 satelites in a Medium Orbit (as Craig McCaw’s ICO). Teledesic planned 21 near-polar orbital planes of 40 active satellites with 4 in-orbit spares per plane at an altitude of 700km. Each Teledesic satellite was originally planned to have eight intersatellite links, in the 60GHz band. Ka-band frequencies were allocated to Teledesic at the 1995 World Radio Conference.

Alcatel announced its SkyBridge constellation in February 1997. Unlike Teledsic, SkyBridge did not propose to use intersatellite links. Instead, its satellites were planned to act as in-orbit ‘bent-pipe’ transponders, in the Ku-band.

The WorldVu concept is similar to the defunct SkyBridge satellite constellation, and is an attempt to use the same spectrum. Before it disappeared, SkyBridge battled with existing satellite fleet operators about whether dozens of SkyBridge satellites in low orbit would interfere with the standard telecommunications satellite fleets in geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometers over the equator, notes SpaceNews.

Perhaps active beamforming antennas like Kymet’s flat antenna and improved frequency inteference rejection will bring LEO broadband satellites back from the dead. With WorldVu, Google may be adding another player in satellite space in addition to their SkyBox Imaging platform.

Third world and global broadband connectivity is being explored with a variety of platforms, including drones. Facebook purchased Britain’s Ascenta drone company as part of what it calls its Connectivity Lab project, while Google earlier this year purchased Titan Aerospace.

Near-space platforms at 12 miles (20K meters/65K feet) are 20 times closer than a typical 400-kilometer LEO satellite at 250 miles. High altitude UAVs can stare — 24/7 — without blinking or human needs. Mercury’s sigint computers are powered by nVidia GPUs and Intel processors for TeraFLOPS processing.

IEEE Spectrum has Five Ways to Bring Broadband to the Backwoods, including solar-powered drones, MEO and LEO satellites, balloons, blimps, and White Spaces.

Perhaps not co-incidentally, Google’s rumored fleet of LEO Comsats would weigh about the same as their new Skybox imaging satellites, or about 250 pounds (113 Kilograms).

Supposedly, the LEO comsats would operate in circular orbits of 800 and 950 kilometers inclined 88.2 degrees relative to the equator. Google may try for a regulatory deadlines of between late 2019 and mid-2020 to enter service by the ITU, using the Ku band (12/14 GHz).

In other news, the third MUOS secure military communications satellite has been delivered to Florida by Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Navy for launch next year. MUOS, or Mobile User Objective System, spacecraft, is a geosynchronous platform that can send and receive secure voice and data communications directly to handsets.

MUOS-1 and MUOS-2 were launched respectively launched in 2012 and 2013. The MUOS Constellation will consist of Four Satellites in Geosynchronous Orbit with one on-orbit spare. A total of 16 communication beams can be provided by each satellite. MUOS will replace the legacy UHF Follow-On and operates primarily in the 300 MHz band which penetrates foliage well.

MUOS utilizes 3G (WCDMA) cell phone technology which was a pretty big deal back in 2002. Data rates of up to 384kbps will be available for mobile users. Today’s drones, however, now depend on commercial broadband satellites for most of their kill missions.

Related DailyWireless Space and Satellite News includes; Google Buys Skybox Imaging for $500 Million, Fleet of LEO Comsats for Google?, Satellite Swarms Revolutionize Earth Imaging, Google Buying Drone Company Titan, Facebook Announces Connectivity Lab, Amazon & Globalstar Test Wireless Service, GlobalStar Promotes “Licensed” WiFi in 2.4 GHz band, OuterNet: CubeSat Datacasting?, Planet Labs’ Photo CubeSats Released,SpaceX: Geosynchronous Launch, Antarctic Expeditions Go Live, ExactEarth Launches 5th AIS Satellite, ViaSat-1 Launched

70 Companies Qualified for AWS-3 Auction

The FCC has qualified 70 companies (pdf) to bid on AWS-3 spectrum (pdf). The auction starts Nov. 13 and will be the country’s largest spectrum auction since the $19 billion 700 MHz auction in 2008. That auction was before Apple’s iPhone became a huge hit and the extraordinary growth of data-hungry smartphones. The FCC has set a total reserve price of $10.587 billion for the AWS-3 auction.

The AWS-3 auction is not as straightforward as previous auctions because two chunks of spectrum are currently used by federal agencies, including the Department of Defense. In most cases, federal spectrum users will have to exit the 1695-1710 MHz and 1755-1780 MHz bands or geographically share them with commercial users.

The Report and Order sets flexible-use regulatory, licensing, and technical rules for 65 megahertz of spectrum in the AWS-3 band, which includes the 1695-1710 MHz, 1755-1780 MHz, and 2155-2180 MHz bands.

The FCC adopted rules to allocate and license the 1695-1710 MHz band for uplink/mobile operations on an unpaired shared basis with incumbent Federal meteorological-satellite (MetSat) data users.

The other 40 MHz block is more traditional. They will assign AWS-3 licenses by competitive bidding, offering 5 megahertz and 10 megahertz blocks that can be aggregated using Economic Areas (EAs). The FCC’s decision to license only one paired 5×5 MHz block in smaller Cellular Market Areas (CMAs) was disappointing for most competitive carriers. The FCC also left it up to carriers to voluntarily have AWS-3 be interoperable with AWS-4 (MSS) spectrum, which Dish Network controls.

The Order will make 40 megahertz (of the total 65 megahertz) of the AWS-3 spectrum available for commercial use. The 15 MHz chunk will be available on a shared basis with federal incumbents. The 1695-1710 MHz band will be unpaired spectrum used for low-power uplink operations. The 1755-1780 MHz band will be licensed for low-power uplink operations and will be paired with the 2155-2180 MHz band, which is unencumbered by federal users, for downlink operations.

Verizon Wireless and AT&T will likely be major bidders of AWS-3 spectrum, but the two dominate carriers did not get their wish to have two chunks of 10Mhz X 2. Instead, the auction will include three 5×5 megahertz options, and just a single 10×10 megahertz license covering the country, notes RCR Wireless. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile US as well as Dish Network are qualified to bid, along with dozens of smaller carriers, investment firms and private entities. Sprint said in September that it will sit out the AWS-3 auction.

Steve Berry, president of the Competitive Carriers Association was not impressed. “The use of the larger Economic Areas (EAs) will likely curtail participation among smaller carriers, who have neither the resources nor the scale to bid on license areas of that size.”

Congress has mandated the AWS-3 spectrum be auctioned by February 2015.

The FCC also chose to require that AWS-3 spectrum be interoperable with AWS-1 spectrum, which many carriers already use for LTE services. AWS-1 runs from 1710-1755 MHz and 2110-2155 MHz, notes Fierce Wireless, but left it up to carriers to voluntarily have AWS-3 be interoperable with AWS-4 (MSS) spectrum, which Dish Network controls. That will likely mean phone sold by the big carriers will shut out Dish.

Dish controls more than 50 MHz of spectrum, including 40 MHz in the AWS-4 band and 10 MHz of the 1900 MHz PCS H Block, part of which is adjacent to AWS-4. It also owns a large block of unpaired 700MHz “E-Block”, which was originally planned for MediaFLO broadcast-type service. That 700 MHz spectrum (adjacent to the “A block” downlink), would now likely be used for LTE – potentially causing less interference to “A block” licensees.

The FCC also recently announced they will delay the start of the 600 MHz broadcast TV auction from mid-2015 to early 2016, due to broadcasters’ court action. The 600 MHz auction will be the big one, with lots of valuable spectrum likely to be available between TV channels 52-69. Unlike cellular carriers, broadcasters do not pay the government for use of spectrum. That’s because they’re still considered a “public service” by the federal government even though only 5-10% of the population still depend on over the air broadcast television. Broadcasters would get paid off to move off (our) public airwaves in the 600 MHz band.

If fully realized, the 600 MHz auction could bring in $45 billion. From that sum, the FCC will deduct $7 billion: $250 million to run the auction; $1.75 billion to reimburse broadcasters for expenses during the repacking of spectrum assignments; $5 billion to establish the “FirstNet” high-speed public safety network for first responders.

The FCC established an outlay of up to $38 billion to broadcasters, based on the recovery of 126 MHz of spectrum and AT&T’s pledge to spend $9 billion in the auction if its acquisition of DirecTV is approved. If, as some observers expect, only two- thirds of that goal (about 84 MHz of airwaves) is relinquished, the pay-out would be about $26 billion at top valuations. A portion of the reclaimed airwaves will not be sold to wireless carriers; about 26 MHz will be retained for use as guard bands and buffers between broadcast and wireless services sharing the bands. Those may be used for unlicensed White Space data transmission.

The AWS 3 auction could reveal disruption in the comfortable 4 carrier status quo in the United States. Dish Network is “cautiously optimistic” that its fixed-mobile broadband trials, currently running with Sprint and nTelos, will turn into a “real business.” For example, Google and Dish could acquire AWS-3 (for roaming compatibility) and launch a 5th nationwide wireless service. Perhaps Google Wireless could deliver cable-like services with enough spectrum.

Related Dailywireless articles include; FCC Sets AWS-3 Auction Rules, AWS-3 Auction Rules: Who Benefits?, Dish Wins Everything in H-Block PCS Auction, Verizon Activates AWS Band , DOJ Sets Conditions for Verizon AWS, Verizon Getting AWS Spectrum Says WSJ, T-Mobile Okayed to Test Spectrum Sharing, Verizon’s Spectrum Deal: Tough Nut, AT&T Buys 2.3 GHz from NextWave, AT&T Wants 2.3 GHz for LTE, FCC to Okay Verizon/Cable Spectrum Buy, 700MHz: Money Talks

FTC Sues AT&T Over “Unlimited” Plan

The U.S. government sued AT&T Inc on Tuesday, alleging the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier sold consumers unlimited data plans but would reduce their Internet speeds once they exceeded a certain amount of data. More than 3.5 million customers with legacy unlimited data plans had their Internet speeds slowed more than 25 million times by AT&T’s practice, which began in October 2011, the FTC said.

The Federal Trade Commission said this throttling of Internet feeds was deceptive and that in some cases data speeds were slowed by nearly 90 percent.

FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said that AT&T wanted to retain longtime customers and so allowed them to buy unlimited data plans, in some cases after new customers were no longer offered unlimited plans. Then they unilaterally changed the terms, she said.

“They stopped providing the service that customers understood they had purchased when they entered into their contract,” she said. “Customers would be subject to an early termination fee if they wanted to get out of their existing contract.”

AT&T called the allegations “baseless” and said the practice was needed to manage network resources.

“We have been completely transparent with customers since the very beginning,” said Wayne Watts, AT&T’s general counsel. “This program has affected only about 3 percent of our customers, and before any customer is affected, they are also notified by text message.”

AT&T is now offering additional data for its $40 and $70 Mobile Share Value Plan, offering 3GB of data for $40 per month (up from 2GB of data) and 6GB of data for $70 per month (up from 4GB of data).

The mobile industry in the United States has commonly used the term “unlimited” to mean whatever they want. Today, “unlimited” often means LTE speed is limited to around 4GB/month, then throttled down to 3G speeds or below.

Prepaid data plans now offer LTE services and a broad range of plans — with no 2 year committment.

Verizon Wireless, a predominately postpaid company, offers a prepaid brand, AllSet, but offers only one smartphone plan, a couple of feature phone plans, and different tablet and mobile hotspot options, reports Fierce Wireless.

At the other end of the spectrum TracFone, a subsidiary of América Móvil, operates as an MVNO, buying wholesale voice and data from all four Tier 1 carriers. TracFone is 100 percent prepaid with over seven brands, including Telcel America, Simple Mobile, Page Plus, Net10, and Straight Talk, all with multiple plan levels. Straight Talk’s hotspot service plans offers 1 GB $15 (30-day), 2 GB $25 (30-day), 4 GB $40 (60-day), 5 GB $50 (60-day) and 7 GB $75 (60-day).

Sprint prepaid brands include Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile. Sprint’s MVNO Karma dual mode LTE + 3G EVDO hotspot charges $14 for 1GB, $59 for 5GB and $99 for 10GB for a bucket of data (no 30/60 day cap on use). FreedomPop has a variety of phones and hotspots using Sprint’s WiMax and LTE networks. T-Mobile has MetroPCS and GoSmart Mobile monthly plans. The AT&T-branded GoPhone includes Leap Wireless‘ 4.5 million Cricket customers which compete directly against MetroPCS, Boost and Virgin Mobile without using its brand.

Mimosa Networks: Outdoor Multi-User MIMO

Mimosa Networks, a pioneer in gigabit wireless technology, has announced a new suite of outdoor 802.11ac 4×4 access points and client devices, to create “the world’s highest capacity low-cost outdoor solution and the first with MU-MIMO”. It’s targeting Wireless ISPs and enterprises, but their products won’t be available until Summer/Fall 2015.

Currently most 802.11ac access points use Single User MIMO where every transmission is sent to a single destination only. Other users have to wait their turn. Multi-User MIMO lets multiple clients use a single channel. MU-MIMO applies an extended version of space-division multiple access (SDMA) to allow multiple transmitters to send separate signals and multiple receivers to receive separate signals simultaneously in the same band.

With advanced RF isolation and satellite timing services (GPS and GLONASS), Mimosa collocates multiple radios using the same channel on a single tower while the entire network synchronizes to avoid self-interference.

Additionally, rather than relying on a traditional controller, the access platform takes advantage of Mimosa Cloud Services to seamlessly manage subscriber capacities and network-wide spectrum and interference mitigation.

“The next great advancement in the wireless industry will come from progress in spectrum re-use technology. To that extent, MU-MIMO is a powerful technology that enables simultaneous downlink transmission to multiple clients, fixed or mobile, drastically increasing network speed and capacity as well as spectrum efficiency,” said Jaime Fink, CPO of Mimosa. “Our products deliver immense capacity in an incredibly low power and lightweight package. This, coupled with MU-MIMO and innovative collocation techniques, allows our products to thrive in any environment or deployment scenario and in areas with extreme spectrum congestion.”

The A5 access points are available in 3 different options: A5-90 (90º Sector), High Gain A5-360 (360º Omni with 18 dBi gain) and Low Gain A5-360 (360º Omni with 14 dBi gain). The C5 Client device is small dish, available in 20 dBi gain. The B5c Backhaul leverages 802.11ac, 4×4:4 MIMO and is said to be capable of 1 Gbps throughput.

All four of the products will debut in wireless ISP networks in Summer/Fall 2015 and are currently available for pre-order on the Mimosa website. List Prices are: $1099 for A5-90, $999 for A5 360 18 dBi, $949 for A5 360 14 dBi, $99 for C5.

Mimosa Networks says the new FCC 5 GHz Rules Will Limit Broadband Delivery. New rules prohibit the use of the entire band for transmission, and instead require radios to avoid the edges of the band, severely limiting the amount of spectrum available for use (the FCC is trying to avoid interference with the 5.9 GHz band planned for transporation infrastructure and automobiles).

In addition, concerns about interference of Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (at 5600-5650 MHz) prompted the FCC to disallow the TDWR band. Attempting to balance the needs of all constituencies (pdf), the new FCC regulation adds 100 MHz of new outdoor spectrum (5150-5250 MHz), allowing 53 dBm EIRP for point-to-point links. At the same time, however, it disqualifies Part 15.247 and imposes the stringent emissions requirement of 15.407 ostensibly in order to avoid interference with radar.

Mimosa – along with WISPA and a number of other wireless equipment vendors – believes that the FCC’s current limits will hurt the usefulness of high gain point-to-point antennas. Mimosa wants FCC to open 10.0-10.5 GHz band for backhaul.

Multi-User MIMO promises to handle large crowds better then Wave 1 802.11ac products since the different users can use different streams at the same time. Public Hotspots serving large crowds will benefit with MU-MIMO but enterprise and carrier-grade gear could be a year away, say industry observers.

The FCC has increased Wi-Fi power in the lower 5 GHz band at 5.15-5.25 GHz, making Comcast and mobile phone operators happy since they can make use of 802.11ac networks, both indoors and out, even utilizing all four channels for up to 1 Gbps wireless networking.

The FCC’s 5 GHz U-NII Report & Order allowed higher power in the 5.150 – 5.250 GHz band.

These FCC U-NII technical modifications are separate from another proposal currently under study by the FCC and NTIA that would add another 195 MHz of spectrum under U-NII rules in two new bands, U-NII 2B (5.350 – 5.470 GHz) and U-NII 4 (5.850 – 5.925 GHz).

Commercial entities, including cable operators, cellular operators, and independent companies seem destined to blanket every dense urban area in the country with high-power 5 GHz service – “free” if you’re already a subscriber on their subscription network
.

WifiForward released a new economic study (pdf) that finds unlicensed spectrum generated $222 billion in value to the U.S. economy in 2013 and contributed $6.7 billion to U.S. GDP. The new study provides three general conclusions about the impact of unlicensed spectrum, detailing the ways in which it makes wireline broadband and cellular networks more effective, serves as a platform for innovative services and new technologies, and expands consumer choice.

Additional Dailywireless spectrum news include; Comcast Buys Cloud Control WiFi Company, Gowex Declares Bankruptcy, Ruckus Announces Cloud-Based WiFi Services, Cloud4Wi: Cloud-Managed, Geo-enabled Hotspots, Ad-Sponsored WiFi Initiatives from Gowex & Facebook,
FCC Moves to Add 195 MHz to Unlicensed 5 GHz band, Samsung: Here Comes 60 GHz, 802.11ad, Cellular on Unlicensed Bands, FCC Opens 3.5 GHz for Shared Access, FCC Commissioner: Higher Power in Lower 5 GHz, FCC Authorizes High Power at 5.15 – 5.25 GHz

Google Fiber Going Wireless?

Google has applied to the FCC for permission to begin wireless spectrum tests in the San Francisco area. According to Reuters, the company’s looking into a rarely-used millimeter wave frequency that is capable of transmitting large amounts of data, but only if the receiving equipment is in the line-of-sight.

Google reportedly may offer a fast wireless service in markets where it offers Google Fiber Internet and TV service. By beaming Internet services directly into homes, Google would open a new path now dominated by Comcast, Verizon and AT&T.

The Google wireless test, beginning Nov. 13, will apparently include three sites in the San Francisco Bay Area, including one in San Mateo county and two locations a half-mile apart which appear to be on Google’s Mountain View, California campus. It will use the 5.8 GHz frequency, the 24.2 GHz frequency and the millimeter wave bands of 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz, according to the application.

The FCC’s meeting on Friday discussed the use of wireless spectrum above 24 GHz for mobile services, including ways the agency can facilitate the development and deployment of technology. Their Notice on Inquiry looks at utilizing frequencies above 24 GHz for mobile use and “5G” applications. The FCC also adopted a Report and Order to facilite and clarify the use of public infrastructure for wireless transmitters.

Google bought Alpental Technologies in June, a stealthy Seattle startup led by ex-Clearwire researchers. Apparently Alpental will utilize 60 GHz 802.11ad and mesh networking.

The FCC loosened some rules governing the 60GHz band last year, saying that it could be used to provide wireless connections of up to a mile at speeds up to seven gigabits per second.

A wireless broadband network is cheaper than fiber. Rather than digging up roads and laying cables to each individual home, transmitters on nearby buildings could enable Google to bring Gigabit internet to more places in less time. Craig Barratt, the former Atheros Communications CEO, is now head of the Google Access and Energy division. He signed off as the authorized person submitting Google’s FCC application.

Tech Leaders: NSA Damages Digital Economy

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) convened a roundtable on “The Impact of Mass Surveillance on the Digital Economy,” at Palo Alto High School — the same gym where the Senator held a school record of leading scorer in basketball.

Wyden, now better known as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was flanked by executives and lawyers from some of U.S. tech’s biggest companies: Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Dropbox.

The hour-long session shifted from talk about the digital economy to the risks posed by government surveillance programs to human-to-human communications.

Wyden cited a study from Forrester Research that found that surveillance concerns could cost U.S. companies a quarter of their foreign revenue by 2016.

According to Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith:

“The fundamental issue is pretty straightforward. It’s all about trust. And it is personal to people. Just as people would not put their money in a bank they don’t trust, they will be reluctant to store their personal information in a data center or on a phone that they don’t trust. These issues have undermined people’s trust in American technology, and that’s a shame.”

“If you’re a consumer or a company, you own your email, your text messages, your photos and all the content that you create,” he said. “Even when you put your content in our data centers or on devices that we make, you still own it and you are entitled to the legal protection under our Constitution and our laws. We will not rebuild trust until our government recognizes that fundamental principle.”

Congress has been considering reforms to U.S. digital communication laws, particularly the USA FREEDOM Act. But those efforts have been slow going, reports the Washington Post. With only a bare majority of Americans opposed to U.S. government anti-terrorism surveillance, the event was likely a preview of how the issue will be framed when Congress returns to session: as a personal affront to American citizens, to U.S.-based technology entrepreneurs and to the global community.

“The simplest outcome is we’re going to end up breaking the Internet,” said Google’s Schmidt. Foreign governments, he said, are “eventually going to say, we want our own Internet in our country because we want it to work our way, and we don’t want the NSA and these other people in it.”

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said the spying scandal will continue to impact Google and other tech companies.

The impact is “severe and is getting worse,” Schmidt said. “We’re going to wind up breaking the Internet.”