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Communications United States Wireless Networking Hardware

Spectrum as Property 293

Posted by michael
from the sliced-thin dept.
the economist troll writes "An article in this week's Economist argues that overcautious control of electromagnetic spectrum, on the part of regulatory agencies, has resulted in the sheer waste of up to 95% of available spectrum. The article suggests remedies for this sorry state of affairs, including (but not limited to) various methods of privatization. Peppered with history and interesting facts--for instance, did you know only 2% of America's spectrum allocation is determined by auction?--this is one article you won't want to miss."
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Spectrum as Property

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  • Waste? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Why would any more bandwidth be made private? So only a few corporations can control our communications networks? Yeah, let's go with that. Four more years for Bush (and Michael Powell)!!
    • Umm...try again (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 13, 2004 @07:18PM (#9964179)
      Four more years for Bush (and Michael Powell)

      Don't be so fscking blind. Comments like that are so high school. Look at all the give-aways BOTH parties toss out to their paid clients. If you believe for one second Bush/Republicans are any worse than the Democrats, you're a bigger fool than they ever hoped for. Bush's FCC commissioner, Junior Powell, obviously is a lacky for large corporate interests. But so were his predecessors under Clinton. Hell, go read the USDA rural broadband money rules (from the bill Democrat Senator Harkin sponsored). Would you be surprised it's just a slush fund to give money back to the incumbant phone companies? Yup. If you ain't one, or ain't established old money, you ain't getting money. Funny how it always works that way.

      While we're on the propaganda debunking, here's one for you:

      1. Go read MoveOn.org's propeganda, especially all the blathering hatred at Bush for sending US jobs offshore to places like India, China, etc.

      2. Then read who MoveOn.org is funded by (George Soros).

      3. Then read Soros Investments list of holdings. Wow... it's like a list of all the major guilty offshoring companies! How can this be? Maybe Soros doesn't know?

      4. Then read the white papers and recommendations by Soros Holdings on offshoring. HINT: If you are a company he invests in and are NOT making him money, he will move to find better management or dump his investment in you.

      This country would rock if it wasn't for all you stupid sheep.
    • How about the amount of waste generated by loading the it.slashdot.org page, and then having to reload it as shit.slashdot.org for every IT article?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 13, 2004 @07:08PM (#9964111)

    Peppered with history and interesting facts--for instance, did you know only 2% of America's spectrum allocation is determined by auction?--this is one article you won't want to miss.

    Yeah, if the rest of the article contains statistics half as fascinating as that one, I'd probably be riddled with regret if I didn't read it. I'm on the edge of my seat waiting to find out precisely which frequencies are actually determined by those actions. Thanks for the heads up!

    • Actually, I found this fact very interesting. (Are you a lost marketer instead of a geek? 8^)

      Another fact I'd forgotten, but which the article jarred loose with a related reference: the UHF TV band is ridiculously sparse in the USA. Is there any area left with 10 UHF channels? What's the max in any area? If it's 10, give 'em all a year or two to retune and warn their listeners, and move onto one of 10 channels, instead of the 70 or so we have now. That would free up some space.

      Augusta, GA has two VHF
      • I think there are proposals to allow WiMAX and the like to tune into unused bands in the TV spectrum. Using ATSC's 8VSB modulation, each channel nets 20mbps, so UHF could have 120mbps or more capacity alone.
      • Most people don't understand how television channels are allocated in the USA. Due to interference concerns, stations on the same and adjacent channels must be geographically separated by large distances. For VHF, I've been told that the FCC's rules can be approximated at 160 miles separation between stations on the same channel and 70 miles separation between stations on adjacent channels. The rules for the UHF band are stricter due to the increased susceptibility to interference of television receivers in
      • give 'em all a year or two to retune

        This is not a simple process. In some cases it is basically impossible. Many of the transmitters are hand tuned devices hardwired to a specific frequency. When it comes to TV many stations are using 20 and 30 year old (and older) transmitters. Legacy problems like this exist all over the spectrum. The frequency bands do need to be reallocated, but who is going to foot the huge bill?
  • Alternitives? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by c0dedude (587568)
    How is it done in Europe, Africa, Asia, S. America, and in Austrailia? How is it working out for them? I hate to jump to privatization without a prescident.
    • Some European countries are Monarchies and do not have presidents... or do you mean precedent?
    • Privitization of public utilities and resources in many cases produces bad results for the people, but makes the regulatory agency rich.

      case in point is the water utility system in El Salvador, where my girlfriend is from. The water used to be okay, but it was privatized. Now it's utterly horrible, there's lots of dirt and hairs that come from the faucet. Her mom and grandmother do the following for their drinking water - Brita-filter it, boil it, then Brita filter it again in a different filter. And

      • Privitization of public utilities and resources in many cases produces bad results for the people, but makes the regulatory agency rich.


        case in point is the water utility system in El Salvador

        While that can be an example of a poorly run utility, it offers us no insight whatsoever into privatization without explicitly detailing how it has been privatized.

        And there's no incentive for the water company to fix the problems either.

        If the water system was truly privatized, the incentive would be tha
        • Re:Alternitives? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by grcumb (781340)

          "If the water system was truly privatized, the incentive would be that poor service would result in them losing the contract to provide the water service."

          Er, no.

          What has happened in a significant number of countries forced into 'Structural Adjustment' by the IMF and/or World bank is that the government is told to sell off publicly owned utilities or face complete loss of access to international finance.

          The utilities (like water service) get sold off to private companies from developed nations, which

          • The problem is that while the utilities are sold off to private companies (usually not plural, either), the right-of-ways and such remain solely allocated to that utility. There is thus no possibility of competition for customers, only competition for maintenance and management contracts. Not Cool.

            It really sucks when you have to convince 51% of the voting population of a town to switch providers because you got screwed over. That kind of privatization is pretty lame.

  • by PhilipPeake (711883) on Friday August 13, 2004 @07:12PM (#9964143)
    that auctioning off spectrum is a good thing?

    Its braindead. The RF spectrum is a limited resource, and as such is subject to speculation and fraud -- have we forgotten electricity auctions so quickly?

    • It's not so limited. There's tons of space, and out of the all of this bandwidth we only get a few hundred megahertz of ungoverened bandwidth. I'm looking forward to UWB, as it is a (from what I understand) a low/no intereference solution that uses pulse transmissions (pulses are, by definition, all frequencies at once) to get around the issues with the governed spectrum...
      • by rcw-home (122017) on Friday August 13, 2004 @08:22PM (#9964516)
        I'm looking forward to UWB, as it is a (from what I understand) a low/no intereference solution

        There is no such thing as a free lunch.

        Currently, you get a chunk of spectrum and you do whatever with it. If someone interferes, you track that one person down and get them to stop. The size of your spectrum effectively limits the bitrate you can throw across it, assuming consistent power/noise ratios, because after all, if no one is interfering, noise stays consistent.

        A UWB transmitter raises the noise floor across all bands ever so slightly, basically proportionately to the bitrate and range the transmitter seeks. Not really a problem for a few transmitters. Also, since people transmit so infrequently, lumping everything together means you're less likely to be affected by the interference.

        But if UWB becomes commonplace, and people become greedy for higher bitrates, then keeping the noise floor low for the people still using fixed spectrum allocations will become a forgotten priority. And even if UWB becomes truly universal, if the noise floor gets too high, where do you start to fix it? How do you decide which UWB transmitters are talking too loudly and for too long? If you start to license how much power and time they can use, how do you determine that a given licensee (or an anonymous unlicensed user) is the problem?

        Some analogies:

        If allocated spectrum is like having slow individual PC's, UWB is like being on a fast mainframe while the admin is on vacation.

        If allocated spectrum is like a stain on a shirt, UWB is what the stain looks like after it bleeds to all the other clothes you washed with it.

        If allocated spectrum is like a monthly marital spat, UWB is like the loud party the neighbors are always having.

    • Did you read the article? It explains why the spectrum is no longer as limited as you believe.

      This isn't 1904 any more!
      • TANSTAAFL (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Detritus (11846)
        I read the article. The last time I checked, the laws of physics and information theory haven't been repealed. There is nothing new about any of the technologies that were mentioned in the article.
    • by jfengel (409917) on Friday August 13, 2004 @07:24PM (#9964225) Homepage Journal
      Spectrum auctions would be a way for the government to make money, without having to raise taxes directly. Something like this:

      * There is a valuable (limited) resource that we own in common

      * The government parcels out the resource to whoever is willing to pay the most for it

      * That money goes "to the people". In reality it goes to the government, who uses it to buy an army, interstate highways, mink farm subsidies, whatever your representatives have put into the budget.

      * The buyer makes the money back by selling you something you want (TV, cell phones, garage door openers, etc.)

      The fraud problem is also a government problem. It's most easily fixed by demanding the money up front, though that tends to lock small bidders out of it. There are other ways that involve instituting various regulations. Just because the government has been stupid doesn't mean it has to be. (Or maybe it _does_ have to be, in which case the problem becomes insoluble and we're all screwed, and we'll just take guesses because that's the best we can do.)

      Now, the point of the article is that spectrum isn't really a limited resource at all. Obviously that's not entirely true, otherwise we'd use just one frequency and we'd all be happy. Certainly the lower frequencies (to a point) are more valuable than the multi-GHz ones, because it travels better. But they claim that technology allows spectrum to do far, far more than we're doing with it. In that case we may not have to auction it at all, not because it's subject to speculation and fraud, but because it's not worth very much.
      • by Euler (31942)
        Like all things, the answer is someplace in the middle. This article was way too Utopian. OTOH, saying that privatization is all bad is wrong also.

        A agree with what you said, if we could do what the article states with re-using spectrum, then there wouldn't be any argument at all. The reality is that there are a few tricks to multiplex the spectrum, but it's still finite. You can do things like directional antennas, and digital spread spectrum can co-exist with modulated transmission. But, the work of Sha
    • Monied interests are good at propaganda. Especially if they own lots of mass media. But it dosn't work. People know that spectrum reform is important, but the way it should be done [slashdot.org] is not the way that buiness and government wants to do it.
    • by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Friday August 13, 2004 @07:25PM (#9964229) Journal
      The RF spectrum is a limited resource, and as such is subject to speculation and fraud -- have we forgotten electricity auctions so quickly?

      Whatever. Everything is subject to speculation and fraud. California's electricity deregulation was set up completely wrong. Just like the USSR doesn't prove that socialism is broken, Enron doesn't prove that energy deregulation is broken.

      When you have the Cato Institute opposing your "deregulation", you know something is amiss.
      • When you have the Cato Institute opposing your "deregulation", you know something is amiss.

        The article doesn't mention Cato's stand; is this some kind of astroturfing?

        For that matter, Cato and deregulation are more than a little wierd. Their stance is that there ought to be nothing constraining corporations, neither government nor especially "we the people". They put it more subtly though! That is, "economic justice" is a big Cato anti-goal ... if they were to take a stance on this issue, it'd be a

        • The article doesn't mention Cato's stand; is this some kind of astroturfing?

          I think that the poster was referring to Cato with respect to California's energy "deregulation."

          For that matter, Cato and deregulation are more than a little wierd. Their stance is that there ought to be nothing constraining corporations...

          I'd be highly surprised if you could point me at a Cato paper in which they said that... I seriously doubt that anybody, for example, thinks that a corporation should be able to assassinat
        • astroturfing


          I was responding to the great grandparent poster, not the article. His point was that deregulation in this sort of situation is bad, based on the example of recent attempts at energy deregulation.

          My point is that California is a poor example of deregulation: Cato seems 100% in favor of deregulating just about everything, and they were opposed to California's deregulation plan.

          Which is why I made the analogy to the USSR: California & energy deregulation are related in the same way that
        • Their stance is that there ought to be nothing constraining corporations, neither government nor especially "we the people"

          While I have some problems with the corporation as an institution, they are still a "we the people" institution. That's because the investors, board of directors, management and employees are all "people". Corporations only have as much coercive power as the government gives them.
    • The RF spectrum is a limited resource

      You base this assumption on...

      Be sure to check your facts, it may have limits but we haven't even tickled them yet. (see "The myth of interference" [salon.com])

    • Unlimited resources are normally free. Only limited resources are valuable enough that people bother trading them. Pretty much anything that is traded is a limited resource.

      So why would you think thatspectrum being limited is an argument against trading it? As far as I can tell it is really a precondition for trade in it.
  • For starters (Score:5, Informative)

    by Politicus (704035) <salubrious@ymail.AUDENcom minus poet> on Friday August 13, 2004 @07:13PM (#9964147) Homepage
    For decades after Guglielmo Marconi invented the radio in 1897
    Um, Tesla invented radio technology [teslasociety.com], Marconi was the first to put it to use. He actually licensed Tesla's patents.
  • by MadHungarian1917 (661496) on Friday August 13, 2004 @07:13PM (#9964151)
    As a ham many areas of spectrum are underutilized because the technology does not exist to successfully exploit them. For example the repeater which takes a radio signal coming on one frequency and retransmits it on another is the basis for the entire cell phone industry.

    At the time the commercial interests wanted that spectrum for expansion of paging.

    What financially driven interests forget frequently is that basic non-directed research is a good thing which yields benefits down the road and often entire new industries.

    Like the RFID crowd wants to put high power RFID tags on the 70cm band. This interferes with both Hams, Wind profiling radar and satellite communications. The difference is someone can make a quick buck.

    Also these RFID tags can be read at a distance of several miles with the right equipment. So much for RFID being a 'short range' technology

    If i am lucky First Post
    • by wfberg (24378) on Friday August 13, 2004 @07:34PM (#9964278)
      As a ham many areas of spectrum are underutilized because the technology does not exist to successfully exploit them. For example the repeater which takes a radio signal coming on one frequency and retransmits it on another is the basis for the entire cell phone industry.

      Don't know about the states, but over here in the bad olde world, cell technology doesn't use repeaters except for indoor/underground coverage. Base stations relay calls onto either wired infrastructure, or onto line-of-sight microwave transceivers that, while technically RF, are a different beast altogether. (In fact, they're unlicensed since they don't interfere much, being line-of-sight).

      The whole point of cellular technology is to hand off calls to regular infrastructure. If it were all completely wireless, you'd have calls being repeated from base station to base station until they reached their destination, meaning that your call would take up a channel over the entire area of that patch.

      In fact, cell technology is so yummy good because you only use the channel locally. This means that with only a limited number of channels you can support dozens of simultanious calls per cell, rather than dozens of simultanious calls on the entire system. You can even split up particularly crowded cells into multiple micro-cells (although you have to shuffle around which frequencies are used in the neighboring cells).

      (Of course, government is using the just-repeat-stuff-over-the-air model for their "next generation" digital communications systems for emergency services. Even the frigging railways use GSM! No wonder that project is failing..)
      • Apparently I did not express myself clearly enough. The repeater technology was the seminal idea behind the cellular system. It had it's limitations but unlike the old radiophone system the repeater used compact transmitters and antennas which could be located anywhere. Also the block of repeater freq's is fairly small so the freq's are reused over and over again similar to the AMPS and CDMA systems.

        The handoff from cell site to cell site and the integration with the POTS network are what made the re
    • As a ham many areas of spectrum are underutilized because the technology does not exist to successfully exploit them. For example the repeater which takes a radio signal coming on one frequency and retransmits it on another is the basis for the entire cell phone industry.

      At the time the commercial interests wanted that spectrum for expansion of paging.

      What financially driven interests forget frequently is that basic non-directed research is a good thing which yields benefits down the road and often

  • by Raindance (680694) * <johnsonmx@@@gmail...com> on Friday August 13, 2004 @07:15PM (#9964162) Homepage Journal
    Thankfully, this article also covers not only the idea of 'spectrum privatization' or letting the free market allocate spectrum instead of the FCC's (rather arbitrary allocations) but also the idea of 'open spectrum'; letting anyone use spectrum in various ways (subject to non-interference regulations, of course- if your device uses spectrum it needs to play nice).

    I believe the article supports this thought, that basically it works out that *either* spectrum privatization or open spectrum would be a much better way to allocate spectrum, but the FCC is an organization in search of a purpose and of funding, hence tries to regulate what need not be regulated. Not regulate for any real purpose either, merely regulate.

    If we want progress in technology, a good first step would be to get rid of, or radically change, the FCC.

  • Yes...but .... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bill_beeman (237459)
    Unfortunately, this is the marketing guy's version of some hard engineering facts. The article sounds very much like a j-school graduate's version of what an economist said...and that neither one ever took anything beyond bonehead physics for liberal arts majors (you know, the one without the math).

    Yes, there are things that can be done to maximize the efficiency with which we use the available specturm. And yes, there are inefficient users of the spectrum (government agencies being among the most egregi
  • ...I've been 'regulating' 3 SSIDS from inside my apartment for months now.
    Oddly, my neighbor just got a large envelope from the RIAA...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 13, 2004 @07:20PM (#9964200)
    i am writing this on
    my ipaq from my 1st
    floor coat closet in
    my house in FORT
    am being ravished by
    hurricane charlie.
    the power went out
    almost 6 hours ago,
    but somehow i can
    still reach a wi-fi
    access point (must
    be on a UPS). if
    anyone can read
    this -- please send
    beer and porn and
    wish me luck!!

  • Sychronocity! (Score:5, Informative)

    by AccordionGuy (559952) on Friday August 13, 2004 @07:23PM (#9964216) Homepage

    Clay Shirky has just posted his essay, The Possibility of Spectrum as a Public Good [shirky.com]. It starts with mentioning that the FCC is considering opening up additional spectrum for unlicensed uses -- "the same kind of regulatory change that gave rise to Wifi" -- and points out that "The 2.4Ghz spectrum is not treated as property, with the FCC in the ungainly role of a 'No Trespassing" enforcer; instead, it is being treated as a public good, with regulations in place to require devices to be good neighbors, but with no caps or other restrictions on deployment or use."

    Good reading all 'round.

    • Re:Sychronocity! (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Unfortunately I don't have much time to write up proper rebuttals to the Economist piece and Clay Shirky's essay (thesis due in a few weeks), but both articles have substantial elements of ill-informed pseudoscience masquerading as fact.

      In particular, the thrust of Shirky's argument is that we should change how we do things (i.e., the regulatory environment) because we can make use of the spectrum as a public commons without interfering with one another. The gaping hole in this argument is that, absent FCC

    • In some places 2.4GHz is already getting congested and with phones starting to get wifi, a trend which is only likely to continue, it's going to get more so. I think we'll find that this model does not work as well as might be suggested.
  • So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Friday August 13, 2004 @07:24PM (#9964227) Journal
    The Economist recommends privatisation as a solution. Now what a surprise. Don't get me wrong, it's a great paper and I actually subscribe to it, but there are times when it gets into the realms of market fundamentalism [wikipedia.org], so you should always read between the lines. Some of their articles also read as if they belong in the Leader section, so thick do they lay it on with the opinions.
  • by thephotoman (791574) on Friday August 13, 2004 @07:31PM (#9964258) Journal
    I want to purchase all electromagnetic frequencies between 380 nm and 780 nm. Therefore, everything that people could see would belong to me. Or does somebody else already own that part already?

    Of course, I'll licence them under the GNU's GPL.
  • The article teases about how the public can benefit:

    James Snider at the New America Foundation, a think-tank in Washington, DC, estimates that America's airwaves would have been worth $771 billion in 2001 (when he last did the sums) if every licensee were to use his bandwidth for the service in most demand by the public.

    but fails to show how any of this value could be captured? Is this because of who would actually benefit by the proposal?

    Michael Powell, the FCC's chairman, has said that he would like t

  • by PaulBu (473180) on Friday August 13, 2004 @07:32PM (#9964264) Homepage
    Thoughts of Dave Reed (the guy who gave us TCP/IP)
    on the subject [reed.com]

    Paul B.
  • From the article...

    "Unlicensed spectrum is sounding like crack cocaine: the ultimate high that solves all your problems," says Brian Fontes, a lobbyist who works for Cingular, America's second-largest mobile-phone company (and the largest once its acquisition of AT&T Wireless, a rival, is complete).

    I didn't know that about crack and I don't think it's common knowledge either. Sounds like he is a bit too familiar with it. I guess this is a little insight into why lobbyists are such whores for money

  • by javaxman (705658) on Friday August 13, 2004 @07:56PM (#9964390) Journal
    then why do I hear two different radio stations on the same frequency so often?

    Why does one over-the-air broadcast station have ghosting caused by another??

    What, the free market is supposed to fix those problems magically, without government oversight, when they're still pretty bad with the FCC throwing down tons of rules *and* charging licensing fees?

    I smell typical Economist free-market hype. Just let the highest bidders control your spectrum, and everything will be fine, kiddies...

    I'm not saying there isn't a need for change in the way RF is used. But I am calling into question a highest-bidder-takes-all approach, and the motives of those who back such an approach.
    • Did ANYONE here RTFA, or is the Economist putting a different article out to people with my IP or something?

      The economist article isn't suggesting Thatcher/Pinochet/Reagan style privatisation - which I think of as the government giving out publicly owned utilities to the highest bidder and letting them fleece us for whatever they can get away with. That's roughly what we have now, with heavy government regulation - and the Economist article doesn't even suggest a less-regulated form of that system.

      The eco
    • by offpath3 (604739) <offpath4@yahFORT ... p minus language> on Friday August 13, 2004 @08:38PM (#9964611)
      then why do I hear two different radio stations on the same frequency so often?

      Because current transmitters and radios are using the spectrum inefficiently. With smarter transmitters and smarter receivers we could much more effectively filter out different signals and use much less of the spectrum per broadcast. Or so the article argues.

      • Smarter = more expensive. Always.

        One of the nice things about some of our comms (AM, FM, some of the simpler digital modulation methods) is that the receiver is *cheap* and can therefore be small and ubiquitous. Smart networks won't be cheap and won't be small.
  • Lawrence Lessig [lessig.org] spends a not insignificant amount of time on the concept of spectrum in 2001's The Future of Ideas.

    Quoting him from page 233 (emphasis in original)...

    "Here again, an idea about property is doing all the work - but this time the idea is at its most attenuated. We don't yet have a full property regime for allocating and controlling spectrum. Yet we are still being driven to embrace this single view. We are racing to deny the opportunity for balance, pushed (as we always are) by those who
  • by Detritus (11846) on Friday August 13, 2004 @08:15PM (#9964472) Homepage
    Every time I read one of these propaganda pieces on the virtues of applying market principles to the RF spectrum, I have to ask, what about all of the users who don't have the money to buy a slice of the spectrum? Are they going to be shut out because corporate users can afford to pay far more than they could ever dream of spending? Currently, there is spectrum reserved for many people and organizations that do not have much money. Economically "efficient" is not the same thing as socially "efficient".
  • Umm... no. (Score:4, Informative)

    by cr@ckwhore (165454) on Friday August 13, 2004 @08:50PM (#9964674) Homepage
    The author has demonstrated his lack of understanding of RF basics.

    Even a sliver of new unlicensed spectrum in the very low frequencies could therefore make an enormous difference. It could, for example, make possible a cheap alternative to cable and digital-subscriber line modems (for which roads have to be dug up and trees uprooted) in delivering high-speed internet access across "the last mile" to the consumer.

    Nope, sorry captain. "Very low frequencies", A.K.A. "VLF" cover about 10-30kHz. Read up on Nyquist's theorem... there's some math involved, but it basically dictates maximum data rates at any given frequency. Even then, in real world applications, maximum data rates are typically lower than nyquist rates.

    For example, I'm a licensed amateur radio operator, and I actively transmit and receive data at 144.390 mHz ... at this frequency (VHF, much higher than VLF), data is typically sent at 1200baud. Much higher than that and it becomes more difficult.

    Basically, theoretical data rates increase as the frequency of a signal increases.

    In another ham band, around 435mHz (UHF), satellites typically send data at 9600baud.

    So, data rates are still relatively useless for broadband applications at any realistic point below anything ending with "gigahertz". There's no way in hell (do the math, thank you nyquist) that VLF could be a "last mile" solution.

    On to another point regarding "mesh networks" ... (thank you oh great queen of buzzwords) ... I encourage you to study some basic radio theory, get your ham license, and experiment with the APRS network which runs on 144.390mHz ... it's a world-wide "mesh network" which is very active, and very effective, and very well suited for it's purpose.
  • by earthforce_1 (454968) <earthforce_1 AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday August 13, 2004 @08:58PM (#9964713) Journal
    The amount of information that can be transmitted over an RF link with a given frequency band and noise floor is finite. The Shannon limit describes the absolute bottom signal to noise limit, below which no useful information can be sent. With wideband spead spectrum technology and robust error detection/correction algorithms, we can finally approach it. That is the bad news. The good news, this is 100x better than most of the (mostly uncompressed analog) open air transmission methods currently being used.

    Consider a regular, low noise telephone line limited to 3 KHz bandwidth, no DSL, ISDN, or other high bandwidth enhancements. The first generation telephone modems ran at 110 or 300 baud. Eventually, QAM modulated modems came out that worked at 1200 baud. Later, 2400 baud modem appeared. This proved to be the limit of pure analog op-amp filter technology. 9600 baud modems requred a DSP, to process and recover data from the incoming signal. Later, 19.2k, 28.8k, 33k, and eventually (almost) 56k modems appeared, as the DSPs got faster, and more sophisticated filtering, error detection and recovery algorithms were used. But this was the limit. Pushing more data through a bandwidth limited, voice quality phone line requires a lower noise floor, or more bandwidth. Sending symbols faster requires greater bandwidth. Using a more complex symbol constellation requires a lower noise floor, or eventually the bits smear into each other to an extent that the error recovery mechanism cannot cope.

    Open RF is much the same - you have a finite slice of bandwidth to use. You can reduce the signal to noise ratio by increasing the transmitter power, but then you become a greater noise source for everybody else who is transmitting over the same spectrum. CDMA phones are constantly adjusting their transmit power up and down, depending on how well the base station is receiving them. If the BER (Bit Error Rate) is too high, the phone is told to raise its transmit power. If the BER is low, the phone is told to reduce power, in order to reduce the noise. In a CDMA system, you can always add "just one more" transmitter, but eventually the noise floor is raised to the point where calls are dropped.

    Also in open RF there are other problems to contend with, that dictate the optimal method of transmission - fading, (transmitter moves behind or out from behind a building) multipath, (Signal takes multiple paths to receiver, resulting in overlap because signals arrive at different times - think of trying to talk across an echoing canyon) and dopplar shifts. (Transmitter is moving, resulting in shifted carrier frequency) In practice, open RF is a pretty crappy transmission medium as compared to any sort of physical link.

    In order to preserve optimal use of the spectrum for others, you don't want to transmit omnidirectional. If the receiver is in front of you, the signal you transmit to the sides and back are just wasted transmitter power, and an unwanted noise source for everybody else. Ideally, you only want the signal to go in a laser like path between transmitter and receiver. Very tricky if you don't know where the receiver is, or if it is moving.
  • Yes, privitization! Why put up with evil Government Waste(TM) when we could just auction off the spectrum to ClearChannel! That'd be a huge improvement! Hooray capitalism!
  • Detailed EMR poster (Score:2, Informative)

    by unihedron (579453)
    See the whole EMR spectrum on this poster: http://www.unihedron.com/projects/spectrum/ [unihedron.com]
  • by DavidTC (10147)
    It's easy, and completely impossible to impliment at this point in time.

    First, divide the spectrum into a million different slices. Specify some of them as high power, and some as low power, some as very long distance, some as fairly long distance, some as short distance, and a few as few very short distance, aka, bluetooth. (You need less as the distance gets shorter, because, duh, everyone can use the same ones.) OSI Layer 1.

    Next, come up with some protocol. It needs a sender address, an optional destin

    • Then let anyone broadcast on any power/freqency, anything.

      Thus ruining modern astronomy for everyone. Half the benefit of having such a tightly regulated spectrum is the fact that scientific observations can, and do, still go on.

      You don't need to open up the full spectrum. It's actually nice having common bands that everyone uses, because the bands are all standardized, and the equipment is commodity.

      I love hearing people say that the upper GHz band is ripe for the taking. Damnit. There's a lot of good
  • did you know only 2% of America's spectrum allocation is determined by auction?

    That's a bad thing? The last I had heard, I thought that slashdotters weren't in favor of the large, faceless companies.

  • yes, it might be a good way to make money after all, but those using the frequencies as a consumer will pay for it one way or the other.

    Is there anyone out there who thinks that he'll benefit from more efficient bandwith usage on a personal level?
    It would be great if the 2.4 GHz spectrum would be licensed - I'm looking forward to pay fees for any WLAN NIC I buy.

    95% of the spectrum are not meant to be for profit, but it's not like 95% of it are being wasted/unused.
  • While the frequency allocation chart linked from the article was very nice in my high school physics book, this chart [doc.gov] (beware: PDF) from the NTIA is much more informative.

    As for the various notions of privatizing or opening up large swaths of the spectrum, it must be done very carefully, if at all, as there are too many users that absolutely must have clear channels to operate safely (aircraft navigation and communication come to mind), but at the same time do not have the financial resources to compete
  • Hmm - with about 300 million in North American, $771 billion would out to about $2,100 per person for each man woman and child.

    Are people _really_ willing to pay this much for what nature provided for free? Well - I suppose the regulators need to justify their salaries somehow!!!
  • I don't see why the two choices have to be government administration and private ownership. Why not sell limited term (say, 5-50 year) leases with competitive bids? That way, businesses can develop spectrum, but the public still retains control in the long term.
  • FM Radio markets could be vastly expanded if the FCC allowed stations to operate on first-adjacents of each other.

    Currently, primary stations are only allowed on second-adjacents (400kHz) which is double the 200kHz required maximum margin for FM transmissions.

    This buffer zone was to allow for older, less precise equipment to not receive interference. However, in this age of digital radios, it should be technically possible to pack stations much closer together...such as stations on first-adjacets even. I
  • Having private property rights and spectrum auctions are required to maximize efficiency, that is, whoever has the most value for any spectrum will own it. Government can determine the value of reserved spectrum to itself and choose which and how much spectrum not to sell. Public spectrum is not necessary, any entity could purchase spectrum, open it, and charge per device for using that spectrum, rather than charging for service like cellular. I don't think it would cost that much per 2.4GHz device to ma

People will buy anything that's one to a customer.