FCC Increases Wireless Spectrum Five-Fold

The Federal Communications Commission
Thursday made a major policy shift in the federal rules that govern U.S.
wireless communications.

The Commission amended Part 15 of the its rules concerning wireless devices
operating in the 2.4-gigahertz band. The FCC’s decision permits wideband
frequency-hopping products to operate at similar power levels to existing
wireless local area network systems, opening the door to innovation and
increased competition in the wireless arena.

The new rules call for a minimum of 15 hopping channels, spanning a total
of 75 megahertz. Hopping channels are permitted to be up to 5 megahertz
wide. With wider bandwidths allowed, providers are free to offer high-speed
data rates over wireless devices.

By utilizing fast frequency-hopping technology, manufacturers will be able
to offer low-cost, more power efficient wireless devices that can provide
superior interference protection, security, and network scalability.

This FCC action paves the way for development of a new generation of
interference-immune, high-speed wireless networking technology designed to
extend the reach of broadband multimedia services within homes, schools,
and businesses.

The ruling is nothing short of a break though in the way U.S. wireless
access providers can connect customers to broadband services.

Spread spectrum devices were only permitted to operate on an unlicensed
basis by the FCC. Due to interference in other frequencies, U.S. wireless
providers ability to hop spectrum was limited. The Home RF Working Group lobbied with the
FCC to change the rules of the game.

By accepting HomeRF’s proposal, the FCC enables frequency hopping spread
spectrum devices operating in the 2.4-gigahertz band to increase data
transmission speeds five-fold, from 2 megabits per second to 10 megabits
per second.

Wide band frequency hopping enables high-speed wireless providers to serve
up home access capable of integrating data, voice, and video communications.

The Committee for Unlicensed Broadband Enablement (CUBE) agreed with
HomeRF, stating that the proposed rule changes were necessary to preserve
the competitive balance between the capabilities of frequency hopping and
direct sequence spread spectrum devices operating in this band.

CUBE asserted that ensuring the frequency for hopping technology would be
competitive with direct sequence technology and ultimately benefit
consumers. In addition to leading to the development of improved wireless
devices operating at lower costs, CUBE noted that the proposal to permit up
to 5 MHz bandwidths for spectrum hopping would allow backward compatibility
with existing devices.

More than 80 additional parties submitted comments and ex parte
filings in support of recommendations from CUBE and HomeRF.

Wire-free broadband networking firm and HomeRF member Proxim, Inc. was quick to give federal
regulators a corporate “pat on the back” for the rules change.

David C. King, Proxim chairman, president and chief
executive officer lavished well-deserved praise on federal regulators.

“We commend the FCC for taking this important step to promote competition
on a level playing field and encourage the development of a new generation
of advanced broadband wireless networking technology,” King said.

Other leading members of HomeRF included Charter Communications, Inc., Compaq Computer Corp. ,
Intel Corp. and Motorola, Inc. . The
tech leaders agree that the FCC has made an entirely new generation of
high-speed wirel

ess goods and services possible.

Steve Silva, Charter Communications senior vice
president said the FCC rules change was a big win for U.S. consumers.

“With this ruling, the FCC not only enables broadband providers to offer a
wider range of multimedia services into the home, but gives consumers the
freedom to have broadband capabilities throughout their homes or offices,”
Silva said.

Not everyone favored the FCC’s adoption of new rules governing wireless
spectrum and devices.

The Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA), and others filed
comments opposing the FCC Notice. They argued that the proposed rule change
would increase interference to devices operating in the 2400 2483 megahertz
band. WECA continues to contend that high-speed data transmission can be
met by direct sequence spread spectrum systems or unlicensed national
information infrastructure devices, and that there is no need to allow
increased bandwidth for frequency hopping spread spectrum devices.

Furthermore, WECA asserted that frequency hopping systems using increased
bandwidth would not be able to withstand interference from other frequency
hopping systems and from direct sequence systems. According to WECA the new
wideband frequency hopping systems are likely to increase their power
output or retransmit signals more often in order to overcome interference.
The result will be increasing interference to other unlicensed devices
operating in the spectrum.

In a joint statement Commissioner’s Ness and Furchtgott-Roth, along with
Chairman Kennard, said they understood that most existing wireless devices
are already designed to deal with interference from sources like microwave
ovens and spread spectrum systems. The federal regulators believe that
developments in error correction technology and the ability to retransmit
signals as required would deal with any interference.

“In most cases, consumers are unaware that interference occurred,” the
statement read. “We do not believe that wide band frequency hopping devices
will significantly alter the performance of devices already in the hands of
consumers.”

In dismissing WECA’s concerns, the regulators said that “any further power
reduction would constrain the useful operating range to such an extent that
wireless devices would not be useful.”

The FCC concurred with the HomeRF plan to provision 15 non-overlapping
channels in order to accommodate the bandwidth required to facilitate
spectrum hopping. Faster data speeds and backward compatibility with
existing wireless devices was more important to the Commission than WECA’s
fear of potential interference in the spectrum.

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