By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
WASHINGTON, D.C. -The new Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS), which went into effect Nov. 13, is now being questioned by FRS heavyweight Motorola and the Personal Radio Steering Group Inc. (PRSG), a two-way radio user group. Both have filed petitions with the FCC for reconsideration of the rules just passed on MURS.
Motorola is calling for a complete reversal of the ruling, which would return the newly allocated channels back to their former status (as licensed channels for business use only), and PRSG is advocating limited restrictions on consumer and business use.
MURS is a five-channel, 2-watt service in the VHF 150MHz band, which does not require a special license, despite its high power and long range of up to 5 miles. The service also places no restrictions on antennas and repeaters.
Simply put, five channels from the business band of Private Land Mobile Radio (PLMR; Part 90) were deregulated by the FCC and placed in the citizens band (Part 95). (See TWICE, Nov. 6, p. 32.)
"What we're concerned about," said Corwin Moore, PRSG administrative coordinator, "is that there are no restrictions on antenna height, on repeater functions and interconnect with the public telephone network. We would like to see these restricted so that there will be no loud-mouthed base stations.
"An antenna of a couple hundred feet would cover an entire metropolitan area, which would interfere with radios used on construction job sites or fast-food chains like McDonalds. Those users have no idea that this is going to happen. Otherwise, I'm sure we'd see McDonalds' screaming about the impact this will have on their restaurants."
Moore further explained PRSG's position by saying, "Motorola wants to return the channels to their original form [in Part 90 licensing]. They are more concerned with a huge influx of consumer users who don't have a license.
"Our position is that most consumers don't send in the license anyway, but that MURS could be used as a CB packet network for data communication-you invent a packet address and that becomes your portal, and you can use this in a store and forward system and pass information. It's already being done. Given how little constraint has been put on this, an ISP could set up on this. It could become the most popular cordless telephone band, and with no antenna height restriction, you could have a 20- to 30-mile range. And it would be legal."
Greg Spillane, Motorola director of strategy and product development, said, "The primary concern is there is a large installed base on these frequencies, which our Spirit line, as well as any land mobile radio, is used by. Drive-through restaurants, large construction companies are on these frequencies, as well as surveying companies, warehouses, small factories representing many, many hundreds of thousands of users.
"There is nothing to stop you from putting telephone interfaces and automated relays on it now. As soon as someone puts long-range cordless phones on it, the sector becomes unusable by anyone."
Spillane would not say if Motorola was introducing a MURS product at CES because the company does not preannounce products.
Steve Sharkey, Motorola director of telecommunications regulation, said the company would be open to FCC solutions other than a complete reversal of the MURS allotment. "We just didn't want the FCC to take away the rules completely for those channels without more thought given to it. We're open to talking about other ways to address our concerns."
Moore said the FCC will shortly issue a notice saying that these petitions were filed, which triggers a 15-day period when others can submit comments. At the close of that period, there is a 10-day period when the original petitioners can submit rebuttals.
"The FCC could then withdraw the rules, although that would be a very drastic action, that's rather unlikely," said Moore. "There is also a question on how soon the FCC will react. No one knows. Based on the realities of the industry, if a heavyweight like Motorola steps in and says this is an emergency, it will persuade the FCC to look at it."
An FCC spokesman said only that all petitions will be taken into account.
Moore said that part of the confusion surrounding MURS is that it took the industry almost completely by surprise. "It's entirely reasonable to refer to this ruling as the sleeper of the decade. The irony is that this docket is almost two years old, but no one was paying any attention to it until this summer. We assumed that this was going to be some kind of unlicensed business radio service, but when the FCC moved these channels from Part 90 to Part 95 we realized it was going into citizens band."
Noted Spillane, "The FCC was trying to alleviate the burden on these business users so they wouldn't have to pay a licensing fee, but then they completely deregulated it. But a number of things have happened since that time. The full reality of FRS has played itself out. No one knew in 1998 there would millions of FRS radios selling."
To view filings regarding MURS, readers may visit the FCC website at www.fcc.gov/e-file/ecfs.html. Users then conduct a search regarding docket 98-182. Readers can also contact PRSG, Ann Arbor, Mich., at www.provide.net/~prsg.
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