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More spectrum and more spectrum-sharing solutions are needed to keep pace with the rapidly growing market for electronics devices that operate in unlicensed spectrum, according to a white paper issued by Federal Communications Commission staff.
The devices include cordless phones, wireless networks, wireless speakers, home security systems, cordless PBX systems, remote-controlled keyless-entry systems and remote-controlled car security systems (see table). They also include baby monitors, garage-door openers, short-range paging systems, remote-control toys and RFID (radio frequency identification technology) used in inventory control systems and in such systems as Exxon/Mobil's Speedpass gas-station payment system. RFIDs operate in multiple bands, including the 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz bands.
The report was issued jointly by the FCC's office of strategic planning and policy analysis and by the office of engineering and technology. They agreed the FCC must set aside more spectrum for unlicensed devices and develop rules that encourage technology- and market-based solutions for sharing spectrum.
"Much of the benefit and promise of future generations of these devices will depend upon a continued forward-looking approach to policy reform for unlicensed devices," the report said. Effective policy reform would include "enabling more unlicensed spectrum and continuing to promulgate rules to encourage technological and market-based solutions that optimize sharing and thus efficient use of available spectrum."
However the FCC proceeds, it must "retain the low entry barriers that have proven so successful for unlicensed spectrum," the report said.
Under FCC rules, unlicensed devices must accept any interference received, must not cause harmful interference, and "have no vested right to continued operation."
In exchange for operating under these conditions, the report said, "unlicensed devices are free from the burden of the normal delays associated with the licensing process and, as a bonus, spectrum use is free of charge."
The report noted that the FCC is already considering several initiatives to increase the amount of unlicensed spectrum. In one proceeding, the FCC is considering adoption of the 71-76GHz, 81-86GHz, and 92-95GHz bands for unlicensed devices. These bands are "essentially devoid of incumbents," the report said. Potential uses, the FCC said, could include wireless LANs, and point-to-point and point-to-multipoint communication systems.
The FCC is also considering the potential for unlicensed devices in the 3,650-3,700MHz band and in spectrum reserved for TV broadcasters. Specifically, the report noted that low-power devices might be able to operate over TV channels that remain unused in specific markets to avoid co-channel interference. Channel 3, for example, is vacant in the New York City area to avoid interference with channel 3 in Philadelphia.
Acknowledging the need for more unlicensed spectrum, the FCC in recent years has been permitting unlicensed devices to operate in new bands. In 1993, for example, the FCC allowed for unlicensed devices in the PCS bands of 1,910-1,920, 1,920-1,930, and 2,390-2,400MHz. In 1995, the 59-64GHz band was opened to unlicensed devices, and the FCC noted that broadband applications such as computer-to-computer communication would be possible there.
In 1997, the 5.15-5.35GHz and 5.725-5.825HGz bands were opened up, and in February 2002 the FCC authorized the use of ultrawideband (UWB) devices. These devices use very narrow pulses that spread RF energy over a broad swath of spectrum up to several GHz wide, requiring the low-power devices to share spectrum with licensed services and federal government services without interfering with them. Applications would include Bluetooth-like applications, short-range ground-penetrating radar, through-wall surveillance devices, medical imaging, car radar systems and communications systems.
Other unlicensed-spectrum technologies are in development, the report added. In January, for example, the IEEE released the 802.16a computer-networking standard, sometimes called Wi-Max or Wider-Fi. It offers an effective range of several miles, greater ability than Wi-Fi to penetrate walls, and ability to carry voice-grade phone calls. Typical data rates would be 10Mbps. IEEE is also formalizing 802.20, used by Flarion to provide wireless data connections in unlicensed spectrum to users in cars or trains at speeds exceeding 120mph. Typical data rates would be 6-8Mbps.
The report noted that an FCC spectrum policy task force late last year made these recommendations:
Permit unlicensed use of spectrum already occupied by existing licensed services. Technical interference-protection standards would make it possible to accommodate spectrum sharing between licensed incumbent users and new unlicensed devices.
Clear out bands to create new unlicensed bands.
Develop incentives for users to migrate to more innovative and economically efficient uses of spectrum.
Allow for time-sharing between multiple users.
|Product||Household Penetration||Installed Base (in millions)|
|Number of U.S. households: 107 million|
Source: Consumer Electronics Association, Arlington, Va.
© TWICE 2003
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