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What if we had our own spectrum and every new cellular phone added to that network increased its capacity, rather than diminished it? If 802.11 is any benchmark, grass roots decentralized technologies can grow quickly, especially when you take the Service Provider OUT of the loop.

Service Providers suck. They hire guys like me to figure out how to maximize the share-of-wallet while containing the growth and supporting their other, boneheaded, legacy products. Generally speaking, carriers are obstacles to the adoption of technology, rather than instigators of it.

What this article hints at is a mesh of ad-hoc mobile phone users each sharing their network capacity and organically frequency-hopping to avoid network trouble zones. Whereas it has proven impossible for mobile phone network dweebs to engineer reliable wireless services in North America, this could be the answer.

More and more spectrum will be made available to the general public around this world, or we will figure out better ways to use that which is already allocated. In the end, the Return On Investment that carriers expect for their 3G licenses, which already has an event horizon measured in decades, may never happen.

Regulatory bodies will be faced with bolstering floundering wireless carriers, which are clearly obstacles to growth, or enabling an ecosystem of radical technologies to flower into a jungle of new technologies, applications, and networks. The trend of technology and invention clearly favours the latter.


——— 20021125/ap_on_hi_te/the_new_spectrum

New Gadgets May Spark Deregulation Mon Nov 25, 7:38 AM ET Add Technology – AP to My Yahoo!

By BRIAN BERGSTEIN, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) – It almost sounds too “Star Trek” to be possible: A multipurpose cell phone that also serves as an FM radio, walkie-talkie, garage door opener and TV remote control.

And what if every time you made a call with that handset it increased the performance of other phones already in use — instead of competing for airwaves with them?

While such wireless wizardry remains a few years off, those days could be coming faster now, thanks to a rare confluence of technology breakthroughs and a rethinking of airwave regulation by the federal government.

“It is kind of an interesting point in time when it comes to wireless networks,” said Dallas Nash, co-founder of Mississippi-based SIGFX LLC, a player in the impending wireless revolution.

SIGFX figured out how to transmit cell phone calls in a thin part of the airwave spectrum already used by TV stations. By dramatically reducing the cost and increasing the range of wireless phone networks, the invention could bring reliable service to rural areas and developing countries.

Vanu Bose has big dreams, too: to create that new generation of radios — that’s really all that cell phones and garage-door openers are — that can move between various functions with an icon click. The trick is to replace much of the circuitry found in radios with flexible software.

Bose began working at it in a military-sponsored communications project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (news – web sites). After graduating in 1998, he started his own company, Vanu Inc., to further develop the technology.

Now Cambridge, Mass.-based Vanu Inc. has created an all-software base station — which relays calls from wireless phones on cellular networks. Vanu also has built a prototype handheld computer that can make calls on different kinds of wireless networks and work as a walkie-talkie, baby monitor, FM radio — “whatever you want,” Bose said.

The big challenge is that the device is limited to 10 to 20 hours of battery life. Bose — son of the stereo engineer who founded Bose Corp. — believes that with more development and improvements in low-power microprocessors, the device could be the size of a cell phone and have a much longer battery life.

At the same time, other researchers are making progress in developing “smart” radio receivers that can, on their own, determine instantaneously when and where a bit of spectrum is going unused and switch their communications accordingly to avoid interference. (A method of doing that is already employed in cellular networks and cordless phones).

In fact, advocates of an “open spectrum” or a “commons” policy believe new generations of radio receivers will routinely handle their own conversations and help relay others at the same time.

“If every radio is both a transmitter and a receiver, as you add more, you add capacity to the network,” said David P. Reed, a former chief scientist at Lotus Development Corp. and a leader of the “open spectrum” movement.

“My gut feeling,” Reed said, “is that in 10 or 20 years this will be as big as the Internet.”

That may seem a wide-eyed prediction, but ideas like this are not just grass-roots dreams.

Intel Corp. backs software-defined radio in hopes it will ignite an explosion of demand for wireless chips. The military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working on several ways to “increase spectrum usage by dynamically sensing and adapting in frequency, time and space.”

Researchers at Bell Laboratories, part of Lucent Technologies Inc., recently announced a breakthrough in their BLAST technology, which takes advantage of interference on a network to increase the rates at which data can be sent.

Many technology experts say such breakthroughs should force a revolution in how we treat the airwaves. Since the 1920s, electromagnetic spectrum has been handled like real estate. The government licenses use of slices of spectrum and tightly regulates what can be done in those bands.

Much of the spectrum is tied up — largely by the military — and there’s only so much room for experimental and innovative new technologies in unlicensed bands, such as those occupied by cordless phones and the wireless networking system known as WiFi.

But in what looks like the beginning of a historic policy shift, the Federal Communications Commission (news – web sites) has been listening closely to the technology crowd — and to cellular carriers that spent tens of billions of dollars for spectrum licenses and want more freedom to use or trade them as they see fit.

“We have perhaps the most interesting debate in spectrum governance taking place in America since the 1930s,” said Adam Thierer, director of telecommunications studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

This month, a task force appointed by FCC (news – web sites) Chairman Michael Powell — and headed by the former leader of DARPA’s communications research — offered a framework for a spectrum policy overhaul expected to begin next year.

The group said the government should grant wireless carriers more flexibility with their expensive spectrum licenses so they may lease portions of the airwaves that go unused at certain times, for example.

It also endorsed the “commons” concept in some circumstances, saying new technologies should have more freedom to operate in regulated bands — as long as they don’t interfere with cellular conversations or radio broadcasts — and in unlicensed parts of the spectrum as well.

In essence, the FCC finally would be treating spectrum like real estate in the physical world, where the public has easements and parks alongside private property, and airplanes can fly overhead.

Such monumental changes probably will provoke some fights in Washington.

“Certain ossified licensees will inherently be resistant to change,” said Bryan Tramont, Powell’s senior legal adviser.

Even parties who are clamoring for change are circumspect. Wireless phone carriers, for example, praise the FCC’s efforts to modernize spectrum policy. But some say technologies such as software-defined radio might be too unproven to form the basis of policy changes.

They also worry that low-power transmissions by rival technologies on or near already-licensed frequencies could interfere with wireless phone conversations.

“It’s hard to oppose looking at spectrum policy anew,” said Doug Brandon, AT&T Wireless’ vice president of federal affairs. But, he added, eventually, “someone will say, `My ox just got gored.'”