News

May 2005

Photo of miniature helicopter streaming a live video image from its onboard webserver.

Researchers at the University of Essex in England are building miniature flying computers linked together by Bluetooth, which move in flocking formations like birds, to perform parallel/distributed processing tasks.

The project is led by Dr. Owen Hollands, who heads the university's computer science research department. The picture at left shows an indoor helicopter delivering a live video image via Bluetooth from its onboard camera. The data is streamed from a tiny webserver in the helicopter, running on a "Gumstix" Linux processor that weighs "less than a tablespoon of water," according to an article posted on LinuxDevices.com. The article goes on to say, "Additional information about the Gridswarm project - including VRML models of the aircraft and a short movie of a flight to test the stripped down color spycamera - can be found on the project's website. Dr. Hollands's webpage also mentions the project, as does [graduate student Renzo] de Nardi's webpage. The project plans to present a paper at the IEEE Swarm Intelligence Symposium in June."


Canada has just opened a "Consultation on a Renewed Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada and Continued Advancements in Spectrum Management." The 42-page consultation document can be downloaded by clicking here. The consultation questions about license-exempt spectrum are found on pages 18-19 (Questions 1 and 2 are on another topic):

"(3) What additional spectrum should the Department make available for licence-exempt devices and what regulatory and technical provisions should be adopted for their use? Does this include consideration of currently licensed spectrum, and if so, what provisions could be adopted to facilitate transition to licence-exempt operation or band sharing between licensed and licence-exempt operation? Would a device registration process provide sufficient safeguards to licensed operations?

"(4) Would it be realistic to open some of the FCFS fixed microwave spectrum as licence-exempt operations where it may not align with the US market (e.g. some of the reserved 23 GHz band)? How could these installations be controlled so they do not interfere with US-licensed services along the border?

"(5) What means could be developed to ensure that licence-exempt consumer equipment in the field operates within established limits (e.g. e.i.r.p, antenna directivity, channel bandwidth, out-of-band emissions) and what flexibility should be permitted?

"(6) Should the Department consider existing or new licence-exempt bands with a view to facilitating longer communications ranges for licence-free devices or system applications unique to the Canadian environment, such as rural and remote broadband fixed wireless access?"

The deadline for filing comments is 7 September 2005. Further details can be found in Industry Canada Notice No. DGTP-001-05.


Norbert Brazda sent this message to the APCforum email list on 3 May: "Slovak Telecommunications Office published draft of new general licence for operation of radio devices in public 2,4 GHz frequency band. According to the draft of the new licence the devices must be used only with their internal antenna or with external antenna EXPLICITLY and EXACTLY specified by the manufacturer in the technical documentation of the device. If the wording of the licence remains unchanged it will effectively put ban on thousands of devices around the country. It could cause important harm to public wifi networks and many smaller internet providers.

"The draft of the new general licence is now open for public comments. We believe this is just missunderstanding and Telecommunications Office will take this provision off the licence. An initiative of NGOs and wifi providers/networks is being established. ChangeNet provides on-line campaign/petition tool for the initiative. It allows people to express their support to the initiative and submit comments to the Telecommunications Office."

For the full text of the draft regulations, the online petition and more background information (all in Slovak, unfortunately) visit http://vprlan.e-region.net.


"Media Players Need Wireless Connections, Researchers Say" by the Mobile Pipeline Staff: "In the future, you'll do more than just enjoy a latté and check e-mail at wireless hotspots. You'll also recharge your portable media player with more music and video. That's the prediction from [a] market study released Thursday by ABI Research. The report said that wireless connectivity is an essential next ingredient for portable audio and video players. 'Today's so-called portables are still tied by an umbilical cord to the computer and a broadband connection,' Vamsi Sistla, ABI Research's director of residential entertainment research, said in a statement. 'The industry should address these shortcomings.' That, Sistla said, would enable the devices to be truly mobile. Another ABI analyst, Joseph Yau, noted that audio players are starting to appear with Wi-Fi connections. 'Although such models are still few in number, they will become a flood in 2006'..."


"Is Dual-Mode Wifi/Cellular Just a Dream?" asks Robert Liu, executive editor of TMCnet. The problem is that "two different technologies addressing the handoff of voice and data packets are being developed independently by separate standards organizations with very different visions of interoperability. And while the two technologies aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, the underlying business forces are, at times, still diametrically opposed." Liu is referring to Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA), backed by the cellular industry, versus the IEEE 802.21 Working Group, which is expected to propose a draft standard next week for "Media Independent Handovers." UMA and MIH operate on different layers of the protocol stack, but with different aims. There may yet be a single harmonized standard, but some of those involved in the process "don't believe it will be an easy road."


"Wireless Becoming The Networking Default, by Craig Mathias, EE Times (via Mobile Pipeline): Wireless is well on the way to becoming the default connectivity scheme, for both voice and data, in most business and many consumer applications during the next few years... Is wire, in fact, doomed? No, not exactly... Wire isn't going away, ever. Yet it's clear that wireless is shaping its future..."


The March 2005 issue of Aviation Today has a very good, detailed article about DARPA's XG radio project, which could greatly affect spectrum management in the future. See "Policy Controlled Radio: Making Room in the Spectrum" by Charlotte Adams. Also note David Jensen's "Has the Time Come For UWB Radio?" in the same issue. One more article to recommend belatedly: "Is WiFi Telephony All Grown Up?" by Ben Guderian, in the February issue of Internet Telephony. The future of cordless phones and the importance of the DECT standard in Asia are prominent in his analysis.


"Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has spoken in detail, in a document sent to the Japanese Game Watch website, about his company's use of Wi-Fi technology, following his Game Developers Conference speech announcing that the company will offer a free Wi-Fi connection service to Nintendo DS owners. In particular, Iwata... reveals that Nintendo will set up 1,000 new Wi-Fi connection points across Japan for the DS online service... This service will be free, no additional hardware will be needed in order to use a Nintendo DS online, and connections are intended to be instantaneous - without the need to alter any software settings or enter passwords, and so on... One particularly interesting piece of news is that, though Nintendo will not charge for the new online service, other publishers will be able to with relation to particular software titles - an option that is likely to please third-party publishers who may want to launch more complex online-capable RPG games or other information-retrieval services and then charge a monthly fee for them..." ---by David Jenkins for Gamasutra News.


"Open Spectrum Faces Clogging: There's no doubt that unlicensed spectrum and 802.11 equipment is a powerful combination. It allows anyone to setup a wireless broadband network when, and where, they want it. But deploying mission-critical networks in shared, open spectrum is not without risk, and there are widespread concerns that a wireless 'tragedy of the commons' could be just around the corner. The fear is that with too many users competing for too little spectrum, it's only a matter of time before wireless LAN becomes so congested and unreliable as to be unusable (see WLAN: Future Imperfect?). How valid these concerns are, and how they should be tackled, is the subject of this month's Unstrung readers' poll: Unlicensed Spectrum: Is it broke? Can we fix it? Issues of interference in open spectrum were also addressed in last week's Unstrung Webinar 'Unlicensed Broadband for Metro 802.11 and Wireless ISPs.' ...The hour-long event can be reviewed, for free, by visiting our online Webinar archive..." ---by Gabriel Brown, chief analyst, Unstrung Insider


With all the talk about municipal Wi-fi, we missed an unusual project in Landsburg, Germany, near Munich. Launched in 2000, "Hey Wow!" is a municipal wireless infrastructure that used Bluetooth technology to deliver Internet access and information about local beer-gardens, shops and boutiques to tourists and residents through their portable devices. Despite the ordinary content, the project's aims were fundamental - to research system architectures, content management issues and user interaction. Funded by Bayern's High Tech Offensive, the project seems to have ended in 2003. But their website is still online (nearly all the information is in German), and the access points are apparently still in place. Thanks to Blueserker for the tip (they were almost as late to discover this experiment as we were!)

Hey Wow! - Municipal Bluetooth infrastructure in Landsburg, Germany


Simon Duddy reports for ITP that despite years of warnings to the contrary, "recent research by Airbus has shown that electronic devices, mobile phones and wireless devices can be used on airplanes without interfering with navigation systems... The trials, carried out on an A320, successfully tested both voice calls and the sending of text messages to and from phones onboard the aircraft. It also trialled several wireless network technologies such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and wideband CDMA..."

An Airbus press release from last September reported other "flight-trials of multiple simultaneous wireless technologies on board an A340-600. The trials culminated a two-year research programme by the Wireless Cabin consortium, led by the German Aerospace Centre DLR and supported by the European Commission."

OSInt has learned that, as a result of these and other efforts, next month the European Organization for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE) plans to discuss the first draft of new guidelines on the safe use of personal electronic devices by passengers aboard aircraft. While the guidelines are likely eventually to include active RFID and Ultra-WideBand devices, tests on these newer technologies are expected to continue for at least another year.


UltraWideBand through Gas Pipelines - "Nethercomm Corporation, the leading innovator of subterranean broadband communications, announces the development of Broadband-in-Gas (BiG) Technology... with data capacities exceeding ten gigabits. Broadband-in-Gas [makes] use of Ultra Wideband technology to wirelessly broadcast information in a way that is both safe and reliable by using the private spectrum isolated within natural gas pipelines.

"Nethercomm's technology requires no modification to existing natural gas distribution infrastructures and can carry enormous amounts of data by simply making use of the entire spectrum buried within the existing natural gas pipelines. The technology delivers connectivity over the last mile of broadband networks without interference or degradation of other wireless transmissions. By not consuming or sharing costly spectrum, and not requiring installation of last mile cable or fiber, Nethercomm is prepared to make broadband substantially more affordable while increasing end-user bandwidth to unprecedented levels..."

"Simply put, Nethercomm introduces signals into the gas lines using inexpensive equipment located at existing neighborhood network hubs and extracts data at the customer or business premises with end user-installed equipment which can operate seamlessly with most existing and deployed digital set-top boxes..." ---from a Nethercomm press release, 5 May


"Azulstar Networks today announced the launch of the world's first metro-wide Voice over Wi-Fi telephone service. The carrier class fixed and mobile service, which was developed by Azulstar Networks and its partners, operates over the converged city-wide Wi-Fi wireless network that already spans over 60% of Rio Rancho [located in the state of New Mexico, USA].

"With the announcement, Azulstar has fully demonstrated a highly cost effective alternative to the traditional telecom 'local loop' which has dominated telephone service, inhibited competition and kept pricing unnecessarily high for several decades... Tyler van Houwelingen, Azulstar CEO [said that] 'As more cities follow Rio Rancho's lead, it's going to have a profound impact on telco and wireless industry dynamics... Ultimately, all consumers will benefit as this lays the foundation for better service, new services and lower prices.' ...Pricing for residential fixed/mobile phone service has been set at $29.95/line for unlimited calling within the USA + Canada...

"The Azulstar city-wide Wi-Fi network was designed from the ground up to be a converged voice, data and video network and is the world's largest and highest performing network yet constructed. Some 200 high performance Wi-Fi access points provided by Meru Networks provide a seamless 'cellular' Wi-Fi cloud across the city. Advancements incorporated in the nearly complete network include end-to-end Quality of Service to standard Wi-Fi clients, 802.11a/b/g client access, and seamless mobility across the city at speeds up to 55mph with handoffs under 3ms..." [from a company press release posted on the EuroTrade Computer and Communications website in Taiwan]


Bluetooth-UWB Merger Ends Roadblock, Leads To 'Greater Things,' by David Haskin for Mobile Pipeline, 5 May 2005: "The merger of Bluetooth and ultra-wideband (UWB) busts open a marketplace roadblock and will lead to new types of wireless-enabled products, according to Mike Foley, the executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group. 'We'll see whole new classes of devices with short-range wireless,' Foley said in an interview. 'That's particularly true in the whole consumer electronics area with set-top boxes, receivers, high-definition TVs... We'll see much more wireless interconnectivity.'

"The integration of the technologies was necessary because the shortcomings of each were retarding adoption, Foley acknowledged. Bluetooth is a well-known brand name that already has been built into an estimated 250 million devices. However, at about 1Mbps, its data speeds were too slow for many applications... UWB, on the other hand, has throughput as high as 100Mbps, but it was in the midst of an unresolved standards battle in which two camps were holding out to have their version of the standard ratified. So far, no UWB-enabled products are widely available. Perhaps that's why proponents of both UWB camps put on a realistic, if not happy, face after Wednesday's announcement...

"'We know product designers today are growing overwhelmed by the continued proliferation of wireless standards,' Mike McCamon executive director of the UWB Forum trade group added... 'The Bluetooth SIG is setting a great precedent today,' said Stephen R. Wood, president of the WiMedia Alliance. 'Both technologies now stand to achieve greater things'...

"In the end, the merged technology will be called Bluetooth, Foley, said. Getting to that merged technology, however, will take a couple of years... In addition, government regulatory bodies throughout the world must approve that newly-merged technology, according to Foley..."


John Bransford recently founded WimaxCoop "to help grass roots groups form cooperatives to purchase Internet bandwidth" and offer it to their members via Wimax. Their website has a few introductory articles about operating in licensed versus unlicensed bands. See, for example, "Deploying Wimax in the unlicensed band" and "Advantages of Unlicensed."


Esme Vos writes: "I was sitting in a Wi-Fi cafe (Lulu Carpenter's) in Santa Cruz, California this afternoon with my husband, wondering how to create a citywide wireless broadband network that offers access free of charge to users and pays for itself (or even makes money). Suddenly it came to us: advertising (Google adsense plus Google Maps plus Local Search).

"Assume you have a citywide Wi-Fi cloud and lots of people with laptops and Wi-Fi enabled PDAs or phones. That's a lot of people who can be online at any time visiting web pages, doing Google searches, calling on Skype, etc. Without that cloud, those people would not be online...

"Now assume that you are the ISP that provides citywide Wi-Fi access. What if Google could see that the people who are clicking on the ads (or doing the local searches) come from you, and give you a cut of the ad revenue? The more users you have, the more ad revenue. It gives you an incentive to offer Wi-Fi access for free to as many people.

"Take this one step further. Doesn't this give a district filled with boutiques, cafes, cinemas, hotels, restaurants and other businesses an incentive to create a Wi-Fi cloud that is free of charge (to get everyone online and increase the number of local search 'moments')? ...This could be a way to grow a citywide wireless broadband network organically without the central (slow) organizing authority of the city and without having to get permission to mount nodes on city property. This gets around state laws that prohibit municipalities from deploying broadband networks..." ---MuniWireless via Om Malik's Broadband Blog


April 2005

Nokia's Wi-fi enabled mediaphone with 4 GB harddriveBIOS reports that Nokia has unveiled "the first fruit of the Nokia-Microsoft alliance" - the N91 media-phone, with built-in Wi-fi, Bluetooth, Windows Media Player 10 and a 4GB harddrive. It also comes with a web browser, video sharing software and email support. Estimated retail price: about $900. "You can download songs onto the phone via Wi-Fi, USB 2.0, or EDGE cellular networks, and the N91 appears on your desktop as a hard disk drive. It also synchronises to your desktop Windows Media Player, supporting MP3, M4A, AAC and WMA formats. There's a raft of other cool features too, such as ...the ability to hook up a keyboard and use Office applications... Could multimedia smartphones be the future of mobile connectivity? With the N91, Nokia is certainly heading in the right direction."


Spending on Wi-fi services is expected to grow at a 99.9 percent compound annual growth rate from now to 2008, says the Telecommunication Industry Association's 2005 Telecommunications Market Review and Forecast, according to a summary in Electronic Engineering Times Asia. Meanwhile, the TIA forecast says spending on WiMax infrastructure will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 109.7 percent from 2005 to 2008. Capital expenditures on Wi-Fi and WiMax together are projected to reach $29.3 billion by 2008.


"RFID has tremendous potential to transform the business world and impact our personal lives - but not as soon or in the ways that we might expect. That's the message with which Paul Saffo, research director for the Institute for the Future, closed this week's RFID Journal LIVE! conference in Chicago... Saffo advised the crowd to concentrate not only on the technology but also on how it will change our lives. 'It's not about technology,' he said. 'You are in the early stages of helping build a real, new kind of media revolution.'

"Over the next 10 years, he said, RFID, wireless communications and robotics will each play an important role in what he calls the sensor revolution. Saffo said sensors are creating an early phase of 'smartifacts,' or intelligent artifacts, that are 'observing the world on our behalf and increasingly manipulating it on our behalf. This is why I view RFID as a media technology. This is where I think the opportunities are for you.'

"Saffo said that RFID can take an important cue from Wi-Fi, which changed the Internet in profound ways, not all of which were expected... He also sees an important opportunity for RFID in robotics, because RFID readers and other sensors will allow robotics to operate autonomously... But Saffo believes that as RFID becomes more ubiquitous, privacy issues are going to become larger and 'more weird'...

"Saffo encouraged the innovators and engineers at RFID Journal LIVE! to look at the everyday from a new perspective, to discover the kinds of unexpected applications where he believes the greatest potential for RFID lies. As a source of inspiration, he pointed to the Helios, NASA's solar-powered, remotely controlled aircraft designed to fly continuously at 80,000 feet and act as an airborne cellular communications tower. 'It occurred to [Helios inventor] Paul McCready that a plane that never landed could be useful,' said Saffo. 'That's the kind of thinking that you should do.'" ---"RFID and the Media Revolution" by Mary Catherine O'Connor, RFID Journal


Craig J. Mathias writes about "a new class of wireless LAN architecture...that I think is going to be more than influential" in Advances in Wireless LAN Architecture: The Wireless LAN Array (9 pages, pdf).


Polar bear checks email"Web surfing polar bears go wireless" by Iain Thomson for vnunet.com: "Tech savvy polar bears can now take advantage of wireless networking after two Intel employees on an expedition deployed what is thought to be the world's most northerly Wi-Fi hotspot. The 802.11b/g wireless access point has been installed on the Barneo ice camp, situated 80 miles from the northern tip of the planet. The company also has three Centrino notebooks for camp staff to file reports or for entertainment... There have been some problems with the climate, however. The air temperature seldom rises above -30 degrees Fahrenheit, which harms batteries and can cause condensation problems with the laptops' circuitry..."


"Leapfrog to wireless, Intel tells developing nations" by Melvin G. Calimag, Manila Bulletin Online, 15 April: "In a recent regional press briefing in Singapore where it outlined the importance of creating digital cities as gateways to the knowledge-based economy, a top Intel executive said wireless offers the cheaper way for poor nations to catch up with more advanced countries. Stacy Smith, chief information officer of Intel, said the cost of wireless technology is just a fraction of the investment required for a wired infrastructure but offers same opportunity for countries to lay the groundwork for a digital infrastructure... Intel is pushing a program on digital cities, a connected community where broadband technologies enable high-speed communication from virtually every corner of the community and where citizens can access government services wirelessly via civic kiosks or from the comfort of homes with their Internet-connected PCs..."


Andrew Seybold's campaign against license-exempt spectrum continues at MuniWireless, where he writes on "Wi-Fi chaos: the next citizens band?"


Meanwhile, FierceWireless announces that 802.11b faces extinction because price cuts to push acceptance of the faster 802.11g equipment "have caused more and more stores to begin to remove 802.11b gear off their shelves, just as they have done with DVD-RW and USB 1.1 ports..."


"Internet history is on the verge of being made in Bridgend [Wales]. The council will be the first in England and Wales to establish a wireless 'WiFi' network in the town centre where people will be able to access the internet, regardless of which service-provider they use. Most wireless 'hot spots' ...have been operated by individual companies. Bridgend's initiative means the town [is] offering the first multi-service provider network... The deal...puts Bridgend at the forefront of the Government's ambition for all councils to offer universal online access to public services by 2008. It enables customers of 20 leading service providers to get online using their existing account... During phase one, public access WiFi will be installed in 10 libraries in the council, while phase two involves creating an outdoor network in Bridgend town centre... George Polk, CEO of The Cloud, said, 'By choosing an open, multi-service provider network, Bridgend is the first council to try to reduce one of the key barriers to making broadband widely available.'..." ---"Bridgend makes WiFi history" by David Williamson, Western Mail, 14 April 2005


"A project which will investigate the possibility of providing wireless broadband access (WBA) to rural communities by using higher power signals than are currently allowed in licence-exempt spectrum has kicked off. 'The purpose of this project is to look at how those higher powers could be used,' said Andy Rhodes, principal consultant at Scientific Generics which is leading the project... The project aims to see if WBA can be provided to rural communities where other broadband technologies are not economic. Rhodes said it would primarily be a research project but experiments could be required. 'For example, you have to consider the effects of high power on other users, so it may be necessary to conduct experiments to better understand that.' The second part of the project will look at which spectrum band could be used... The required data rates and what can actually be achieved will also be determined. Other companies involved in this project are: Lucent Technologies; DotEcon and the South East Regional Research Laboratory (SERRL) at Birkbeck; and University of London. The project is part of Ofcom's Spectrum Efficiency Scheme (SES) - a research grant programme looking at technical innovation in the efficient use of the radio spectrum. Other SES research includes evaluation of fixed and mobile mesh networks, development of smart antennas, evaluation of software defined radio, and systems at 60GHz and above." ---"UK explores rural wireless broadband" by Melanie Reynolds, Electronics Weekly


"The Wireless USB Promoter Group says that Version 1.0 of the Wireless USB (Universal Serial Bus) should be approved by mid-May. The Wireless USB specification is for 480Mbps transfer speed over distances of about three meters and it will work at lower speeds up to a distance of about 10 meters. The Wireless USB Promoter Group, consisting of Agere Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, NEC, Philips Semiconductors, Samsung, and Intel, says that a number of products will hit the marketplace later this year, with more to follow early next year." ---"First Version of Wireless USB Spec About to be Finalized" by Michael Sciannamea, writing in The Wireless Weblog


"Wi-Fi Alliance Plans for the Future" by Eric Griffith for Wi-Fi Planet: "...Vendors have not been touting the Wi-Fi Certified stamp of approval as they once were - a fact that has not escaped notice. So the group is making plans to stay relevant as 802.11 technologies move beyond just PCs. In a conversation last week with Frank Hanzlik, the managing director of the Alliance, he said that the almost 2,000 products the group has tested in the last five years are exciting, but it may only be the start as Wi-Fi migrates into phones and consumer electronics...

"He also shared the Wi-Fi Alliance's 'interoperability certification roadmap' for the future of specification testing. Right now, first quarter of 2005, the Alliance is still chugging along with testing for 802.11a and 11b/g interoperability, their main reason for being. Along with that is Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) quality of service (QoS)... Third quarter of 2005: look for the group's first WCC [Wi-Fi Cellular Convergence] tests to debut... Next year will not only bring testing for VoWi-Fi, but also testing for public access Wi-Fi... This will apparently also take on more of a security testing aspect, differing from the Alliance's Wi-Fi ZONE program for listing public access hotspots that simply get a stamp of approval for using Wi-Fi Certified products. The Alliance is also planning to push what it calls 'simple configuration' with members, trying to make home WLANs easier to set up...

"Beyond even Wi-Fi, the Alliance is also looking to work with groups like the WiMax Forum, its counterpart in the 802.16 world... Same for 802.15.4, also known as ultrawideband... Part of the goal, he concluded, is 'helping people understand there's no wireless technology that does it all.'"


Joji Thomas Philip reports from New Delhi in Rediff: "Hotspot numbers in India are set to jump 10 times to touch 3,500 by December, following the government's decision to delicense the 2.4 Gigahertz and the 5.1 Ghz bands... At present there are around 350-odd hotspots in the country... To top it, WiFi tariffs in the country, which were earlier among the highest in the world, have witnessed a 100 per cent fall over the last 12 months..."


Two items from RFID Japan: "MATICS2004 is a group of 38 companies/organizations in Japan, which recently developed a system for managing industrial wastes using RFID tags. The system's objective is to strictly monitor wastes produced at hospitals and factories - and find what can be reused..." ---from Nikkei Shimbun, 27 March, in Japanese; in English.

And: "Japanese companies NEC and Toppan Printing started a pilot test of RFID-based CRM (Customer Relationship Management) at The First Shanghai Department Store in Shanghai, China. It started on March 26 and will last till the end of June. The system is deployed at the 'Ladies Fashion Building.' The companies distributed 10,000 strap-attached RFID tags to the department store's customers. Each shop has an RFID reader that reads the tags. The data captured by this hardware infrastructure enable the stores' PCs to display purchase histories and customer profiles of (scanned) customers. The information is viewed by sales agents. The store plans to provide special discounts and point services for the customers and also intends to tailor sales floors by analysing the data captured using RFID." ---from Enterprise Watch, March 28, in Japanese; in English.


Creating Connected Communities: Don't miss Heath Row's notes from a panel discussion at the Freedom to Connect conference (31 March in Washington, DC), moderated by J.H. Snider, senior research fellow at the New America Foundation; with Varinia Robinson, program manager of Wireless Philadelphia; Ben Scott, policy director for Free Press; Dewayne Hendricks, founder of the Dandin Group; and Harold Feld of the Media Access Project. Some of Ben Scott's observations were particularly memorable:

"Before the debate was about distribution. What content gets out. Now the debate is about control over access; who controls the network? People for the first time are getting control of their own networks. That's a revolutionary moment in the history of media policy. It's a liberating moment... A wireless network could be operated as a cooperative. A wireless network could be operated as a public library. Do we ask librarians to sell books? Do we need to ask Borders before we build a new library?..."


"Pervasive gaming was first the vision of Swedish company It's Alive!, meaning location-based games that surround you, 24 hours a day, everywhere. When you walk down the street, you're walking through an adventure world draped on top of the real world, and people you meet may be characters in the same game you're playing. Pervasive games are built upon three core technologies: mobile devices, wireless communication, and sensing technologies that capture players' contexts. It is actually the blend of technologies combined with the location-based and often public nature of game play, [that] gives pervasive games their distinctive identity..." ---quoted from "Bridging the Physical and Digital in Pervasive Gaming;" in "Pervasive Game Development Today" by Fabien Girardin.


March 2005

"Is software-defined radio the killer application for superconducting electronics? That question is on the minds of executives at Hypres Inc. (Elmsford, N.Y.) as they scout markets for the specialized technology... The rapidly expanding wireless market provides an ideal target for an electronics capability that can hook an antenna to an A/D converter and digitally emulate virtually any RF component in real-time. That capability has caught the eye of the military, which is enlisting Hypres in a bid to reduce the Defense Department's entire spectrum of military communications systems to a single, superconducting software radio... [Says Hypres CEO Jack Rosa,] "It's a dual-use program, so they expect commercial products to be developed as well, something that we certainly favor." ---"Superconductors set course for wireless," by Chappell Brown, EETimes


"KT Corp., South Korea's biggest fixed-line telephone and Internet operator, announced Monday an alliance with Sony Corp. to equip the Japanese electronics giant's popular [PlayStation Portable] console with Wi-Fi Internet access. KT said the PSP customers will surf the Web in the company's 14,000 hot spots nationwide. Kang Hee-won, a spokesman at Sony Computer Entertainment Korea, added it is the first time in the world for Sony to add Wi-Fi connectivity for the PSP machines." ---Wireless Watch Japan


"OnVerge Labs has released InfiniFile for Palm OS. The new software seamlessly integrates with the operating system and provides access to virtually unlimited audio, video, programs and data stored on a PC over a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth network connection. To other applications InfiniFile simply looks like an additional multi-gigabyte memory card. The amount of storage and the size of files accessible on the device are limited only by the available space on the server PC. Rather than having to download to the handheld device, InfiniFile streams data in real-time from the server PC. The users can now simply 'play' any song or video from their PC on their handheld or smartphone in real time, without the need for downloads or synchronizing. Games, programs and databases can all be stored on the network preserving valuable and limited memory on the device. In the enterprise InfiniFile can be used to share spreadsheets, documents, presentations and databases between multiple users with the familiar personal organization, business productivity, ERP and enterprise Palm OS applications used today..." ---from PDA Live!


Jeff Vance has a pair of articles in Network World about Wi-fi/cellular convergence. The first looks at the shortcomings of existing service offerings, the second looks at the "middleware" that makes such services possible. Meanwhile in Tech World, Peter Judge summarizes the regulatory problems involved in globalizing the market for UWB technology, focussing on GSM operators' fears ("those speaking for the telecoms industry sometimes find themselves arguing for more stringent controls on UWB devices than on 'unintentional [radiators],' ordinary electronic equipment - or even from the thermal radiation produced by human beings..."). Judge also discusses Ofcom's UWB consultation which ended 24 March and which may influence EU-level spectrum policy.


Last January, we sent an open letter of support to the Telecom Regulators Association of Southern Africa (TRASA), praising their Draft Guidelines on Wireless Policy and Regulations for recommending the de-licensing of Wi-fi and VSAT stations. Those Guidelines have now been made public. Download them by clicking here (1097kb, pdf, 90 pages). It is important for people living in the 14 TRASA member countries (Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) to know TRASA's recommendations, so they can compare their national regulator's licensing policies with the Guidelines and complain if there is a gap.


Do-it-Yourself Wi-Fi Cookware

"Make 2.4GHz parabolic mesh dishes from cheap but sturdy Chinese cookware scoops & a USB WiFi adaptor! The largest (300mm diam.) shows 15-18dB gain (enough for a [line-of-sight] range extension to 3 - 5km), costs ~US$5 & comes with a user friendly bamboo handle that suits WLAN fieldwork- if you can handle the curious stares!"---by Stan Swan for Poor Man's Wi-fi (New Zealand)


"How RFID may help Rescue Workers and Fire Fighters": Shin'ichi Konomi's brief English-language overview of pilot projects in Japan.


Robert Young, "strategic adviser to WeedShare, a p2p mobile music distribution start-up," contributed a thoughtful essay to Om Malik's broadband blog on what it means to have 100 Mbps of pervasive connectivity "at the edge":

"...Starting next year (2006), millions of people will begin to equip themselves with computers and portable devices capable of swapping files at a speed of 100Mbps, all wirelessly (WiFi/802.11n and UWB). Think about that... 100Mbps!! That's about a hundred times faster than what the average broadband user in the U.S. is accustomed to today. More specifically, what I'm talking about here is short-range computer2computer, device2device connectivity directly between people in close proximity of one another...

"This is different than peer2peer that goes through the Internet - unfortunately, the 'last mile' bottleneck will continue to limit such high bandwidth connectivity for any activity that requires an Internet gateway for at least a few more years....

"To make the picture more complete, let's also include the next generation of mobile phones that will be capable of direct phone2phone connections via lower-bandwidth Bluetooth, as well as wireless home networks and consumer electronics (e.g. UWB-enabled plasma TVs) that are coming to market that allow people to easily transfer any digital media directly from one device to another.

"...what are the implications when millions of people start creating ad-hoc wireless networks among themselves? Well, if you zoom out to look at the big picture, the most obvious implication is the rise of truly distributed peer2peer networks randomly and serendipitously popping up in meet space that have absolutely no central points of control... What we're talking about here is a bandwidth explosion on the edge, where the infrastructure will be funded and built by the people, for the people - all without any central planning or capital outlays by the Internet access duopoly of cable and telcos. And the realization of such bandwidth nirvana by way of grass-roots deployment will lead to social computing in the truest sense... Now, with the advent of people-powered wireless bandwidth on the horizon, our computers and electronic devices will open up to a new digital dimension of social interaction among groups of intimates, as well as strangers, but this time to facilitate us in our atom-based lives.

"...So hang on to your hats (and copyrights), the ultimate 'world of ends' is right around corner. Now, if you were an entrepreneur, how would you surf this monster wave?"


In the current issue of Lab Notes, published by the University of California at Berkeley, David Pescovitz writes about the work of Ali Niknejad at the Wireless Research Center: "The Cognizant Universal Radio (COGUR) that Niknejad is developing with graduate student Axel Berny and others was built from the bottom up to be flexible. The COGUR design combines analog and digital components into a single programmable system, Niknejad explains. 'We're figuring out how to put knobs in the building blocks of radio circuits,' he says... In the next few years, the goal is to integrate all of the components on a single piece of silicon that would not only make our wireless devices smarter and more powerful, but also smaller and cheaper. 'We're going for the holy grail here, putting an entire cognizant radio onto a single chip,' Niknejad says. 'Today's technology is almost there.'" [Thanks to EuroTelcoblog for the pointer.]


An online chat for software developers about Microsoft's "next generation" Longhorn operating system took place on 22 March. A transcript of the discussion, hosted by Jawad Khaki, Microsoft's vice president for Windows Networking, is posted on Channel 9. All the comments about mesh, Bluetooth, Wi-fi and Longhorn's support for wireless networking in general are extracted in the WebTransport Blog.


"Bluetooth SIG to Offer Specification to PTISRI of MII to Create Chinese Standard - The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announced that the Bluetooth specification is available to the Chinese Post and Telecom Industry Standardization Research Institute (PTISRI), a research arm of the Ministry of Information Industry (MII)... for translation and distribution [in order to open up] the possibility of later making the Bluetooth specification into a national standard..." ---NE Asia Online


"The spread of the wireless data technology known as Wi-Fi has reshaped the way millions of people go online, letting them tap into high-speed Internet connections effortlessly at home and in many public places. But every convenience has its cost. Federal and state law enforcement officials in the United States say sophisticated criminals have begun to use the unsecured Wi-Fi networks of unsuspecting consumers and businesses to help cover their tracks in cyberspace. In the wired world, it was often difficult for lawbreakers to make themselves untraceable on the Internet. In the wireless world, with scores of open Wi-Fi networks in some neighborhoods, it could hardly be easier. Law enforcement officials warn that such connections are being commandeered for child pornography, fraud, death threats and identity and credit card theft..." ---"Growth of Wireless Internet Opening New Path for Thieves," by Seth Schiesel, The New York Times, 22 March


"TCS Granted Wireless Email Delivery Agent Patent: TeleCommunication Systems, Inc. (TCS), a wireless data technology provider, today announced that the US Patent and Trademark Office has issued patent number USP 6,871,215, titled 'Universal Mail Wireless Email Reader.' [The newly patented procedure] permits a wireless subscriber to move access back and forth between the subscriber's different email accounts, maintained by different email providers, without requiring the subscriber to repeatedly login and logout from one network email provider to another. In addition, the subscriber may perform the set up without the assistance of the carrier's customer service resources, thereby reducing the maintenance costs to the carrier..."


The Italian association of independent Internet service providers sent an open letter to communications minister Maurizio Gasparri on 13 March asking for the immediate unblocking of Wi-fi for "last mile" use by ISPs in Italy. The ministry had apparently said in January that such regulations were ready for release and only a few "administrative details" had to be settled. But the regulations have still not been issued. Assoprovider's letter says (in partial translation - click here for the Italian original):

"For two years an entire generation of young entrepreneurs in the innovative field of unlicensed wireless has been systematically ignored by the world of Italian politics... As if that were not bad enough the worrisome rumor reaches us that commercial provision [of Internet access via Wi-fi] will only be permitted in mountainous areas and the sea because it should be excluded from areas where ADSL is already present... All this ignores European directives [regarding] technological neutrality and the opening of infrastructure competition for wideband, which means not to penalize wireless 802.xx in favor of wireline, as is instead affirmed in Italy by law... Assoprovider's demands from the Ministry are always the same:

  1. unrestricted access to the frequency bands for R-LAN and Hyper-Lan (2,4 and 5 GHz)...
  2. No license fee for either the operator or the end-user;
  3. No limitation on the geographic or territorial coverage area;
  4. No limitation on the type of IP services offered with wireless technology."


"Bulgaria will be the first country in Europe to start implementation of the modern radio-identification technology (RFID) [for customs and border control]. It will happen with a pilot project for implementation of 'smart labels' in Kalotina Customs. The RFID identification system will be built by the USA company ICLogistics which will also take part in a project comprising Bulgaria, Serbia and Macedonia. This way South-Eastern Europe will be the first region on the continent to demonstrate the RFID potential in the field of customs and border control." ---Bulgarian ICT Market Weekly Review, IDG, 18 March


"Bluetooth phones may be vulnerable to attack from up to a mile away by a new device that can pick up distant transmissions from enabled handsets. The so-called BlueSniper consists of a directional 'yagi' antenna mounted on a shotgun stock. The stock contains a Bluetooth module and processor in its magazine. It can also be linked up to a laptop. The man who built the device, John Hering of wireless security consultants Flexilis, said the BlueSniper can scan and attack Bluetooth devices up to a mile away... 'In less than a few minutes, twenty devices were detected - all at distances over a half mile away' said Herring... He said the device was easy to make. 'The parts are easily available for a few hundred dollars and you can make this gun in a long afternoon.' The BlueSniper was developed from an earlier prototype exhibited at the DefCon hackers convention last year..." ---"Bluetooth phones hacked from a mile away" by René Millman, SCMagazine


"According to an upcoming report by Pyramid Research titled The Future of Mobile Voice, voice over wireless LAN and convergence technologies are the key to improving growth in a $500 billion market that analysts claim is grinding to a halt. Report author Svetlana Issaeva surveyed the overall mobile voice market, which she said is at risk of commoditization due to extreme competition and price drops... 'Mobile operators must react soon. This means integrating new delivery networks like wireless LAN and moving towards mobile VoIP, otherwise they risk losing ground to fixed-line operators, who are aggressively seeking to incorporate mobile services into their portfolios,' Issaeva said... 'In our opinion, mobile operators can hardly afford to miss the train, and their delivery networks must transform to include WLAN, along with other new technologies'..." ---"The Future is Mobile VoIP: Report" by Michael Singer, Wi-Fi Planet


Wireless Surfboard designed by Nancy Allen
"With reverence for the sacred surfing lifestyle, the wireless surfboard extends, improves and encourages new channels for purposeful information exchange and playful communication such as strategizing to catch bigger and better waves. Connected, surfers can communicate, play, and locate one another at long range through the most necessary object for surfing, the surfboard. The technology provides surfers with easy access to live accurate oceanographic information via a waterproof and sunlight readable display embedded in the nose of the surfboard... The hi-tech surfboards are able to independently locate and contact one another on a series of pervasive wireless networks including GPS, WiFi, 3G and Blue Tooth. With Smhart Gear® surfers can communicate beyond line-of-sight with other surfers, lifeguards, and beach goers... Emerging material innovations protect the lightweight and watertight surfboard as it is powered by solar energy for uninterrupted enjoyment. The Smhart Gear® interactive surfboard was first designed and presented by Natalia Allen on May 12 2004 at the Hewlett Packard Labs in Bristol, UK during the second annual Appliance Design Conference." ---posted on Surfing Magazine's messageboard.


"Nintendo President Satoru Iwata described how the company aims to bring WiFi gaming technology to its Nintendo DS and new Revolution console at the Game Developers Conference this week... Iwata unveiled that Nintendo soon will offer a free WiFi connection service to DS owners. The WiFi protocol for Nintendo DS will provide users with a link to other players across the country or around the world. Once the service begins later this year, Nintendo DS users will be able to connect to the service wirelessly at WiFi hot spots, whether they're at home, in a hotel or at a coffee shop..." ---"Nintendo Has Wireless Gaming Dream," Boost Marketing


"RFID Skills Shortage Threatens Growth" by United Press International: "A shortage of workers skilled in radio frequency identification technology may hamper the industry's ambitious plans to deploy the wireless tags for homeland security, retail and other applications in the coming years, experts said... A survey released last week by the Computing Technology Industry Association, a trade group headquartered in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, near Chicago, revealed 80 percent of company officials responding said there are not enough wireless-tech workers available today. 'We believe the market needs hundreds of system-integration companies with RFID capabilities - and hundreds of thousands of individuals knowledgeable in this technology to meet current and future demand,' said David Sommer, CompTIA's vice president of electronic commerce... Thus far, the CompTIA survey found, customer adoption of RFID is relatively modest. However, other surveys - such as one conducted by CapGemini, the consulting firm - predict that 2005 will be the break-out year for the technology, particularly because major retailers have required their suppliers to equip shipments of products with RFID technology..."


"Licensing lite" approved for 3650 MHz band - from a US Federal Communications Commission news release dated 10 March: "The Commission adopted a hybrid approach that draws from both the Commission's unlicensed and licensed regulatory models and provides for nationwide, non-exclusive licensing of terrestrial operations in the band utilizing technologies employing contention-based protocols. This streamlined licensing mechanism with minimal regulatory entry requirements will encourage multiple new entrants and stimulate the rapid expansion of wireless broadband services - especially in rural America - by Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) and other entities with limited resources. The Commission also provided an opportunity for the introduction at 3650 MHz of a variety of new wireless broadband technologies, such as Wi-Max...

"Under the Commission's approach, there is no limit on the number of licenses that can be granted, and each licensee will be authorized to operate on a shared basis with other licensees on all 50 megahertz of the band [subject to geographic restrictions to protect a small number of government and satellite-receiving stations]. Licensees will also be required to register all system base stations electronically with the Commission... New fixed and mobile stations will... be required to use contention-based protocols, which will reduce the possibility of interference from co-frequency operation by managing each station's access to spectrum... The Commission gave all licensees the mutual obligation to cooperate and avoid harmful interference to one another. Mobile stations also will be required to positively receive and decode an enabling signal transmitted by a base station..."


US regulator endorses Smart Radio - FCC news release dated 10 March (via DewayneNet): "In light of the ever increasing demand for radio spectrum, and to facilitate new technologies and services as well as permit more intensive and efficient spectrum use, the Federal Communications Commission today adopted rule changes for cognitive, or 'smart,' radio systems...

"[Smart] radios make possible the improved use of vacant spectrum channels - that is, spectrum that may be available in a specific frequency range at a particular geographic location or during a particular period of time - spectrum that would otherwise go unused. Smart radios have the technical capability to adapt their use of spectrum in response to information external to the radio. For instance, a system could use geographic positioning system (GPS) data to determine its exact location, then determine whether certain transmissions are permissible based on that location. Alternatively, such radios could sense their operating or radiofrequency (RF) environment and use this information to determine both the optimal frequency range and transmit power to use, yet avoid harmful interference. Many smart radios can also interpret and transmit signals in different formats or modulation schemes in an effort to transmit without harming others in the vicinity...

"Active efforts are currently underway both in industry forums and standards bodies to adopt internationally accepted standards for software defined and cognitive radios. In this item [ET Docket No. 03-108, Report and Order FCC 05-57], the Commission modified and clarified certain authorization requirements for software defined and cognitive radios to facilitate the development of these technologies. It required that radios that incorporate software designed to be, or expected to be, modified by a party other than the manufacturer provide reasonable security measures to prevent unauthorized software modifications that would either affect the RF operating parameters directly or otherwise indirectly affect the circumstances under which the transmitter operates in accordance with Commission rules...

"Finally, the Commission concluded that there are technical measures that cognitive radios can employ that will allow reliable secondary use of spectrum, yet maintain both the availability of the spectrum and its rapid reversion to the licensee when needed, but saw no need to adopt any particular technical model for interruptible spectrum leasing... [emphasis added]

From a separate statement by FCC Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein: "These technologies should lead to the advent of smarter unlicensed devices that make greater use of spectrum than is possible today. Cognitive radios may also provide licensees with innovative ways to use their current spectrum more efficiently, and to lease their spectrum more easily on the secondary market. I've seen cognitive radios up close and am just amazed by their potential..."


"Calypso Wireless, Inc....has developed a new patent-pending technology that will allow users of mobile devices such as cellular phones, PDAs, satellite radios and portable music players, such as Apple Computer's iPod, to listen to satellite broadcasts on those devices from either Satellite transmitters or wireless LAN access points, such as WiFi... thus generating a huge new potential revenue stream for both the satellite radio companies and the companies supplying service to mobile phones and devices and the manufacturers and retailers of those devices... In the two years since satellite radio service first appeared in the United States, the concept has rapidly gone from being a geek fad to a viable alternative to traditional broadcast radio... As a matter of fact, both XM Satellite Radio and Sirius have recently beat growth expectations and by the end of 2004 the two companies were expected to boast over 4 million paid subscribers... As devices continue to experience convergence of technologies, Calypso believes that all of the converged devices can benefit by incorporating the company's seamless switching patented technologies." ---PhysOrg.com


RFID for Busan's cargo by Mike Clendenin (via Electronic Engineering Times Asia): "South Korea is rolling out a system of radio frequency identification (RFID) to track cargo at one of Asia's largest ports, making the project one of the biggest RFID implementations in the region. Savi Technology is leading the effort in South Korea's southern city of Busan, which is the third largest port in the world. Aside from gaining greater efficiency from detailed tracking, the government-funded project is intended to improve security of containers en route to the west coast of America... As the containers pass through the supply chain, the tags will track information ranging from location and security status to changes in light, temperature and humidity inside a container. The information will be collected in real-time and uploaded to a monitoring network accessible via the Internet. RFID projects have gained traction in Asia recently, with the Airport Authority of Hong Kong spending $3.5 million last year to implement RFID technology into its baggage handling system. China is also increasingly interested in RFID..."


Sony Ericsson's ROB-1 "Sony Ericsson's new Bluetooth controlled camera, ROB-1, can move around freely, steered wirelessly by the joystick or keypad on a compatible mobile phone or the touch screen on Sony Ericsson P900/P910 smartphones... Images can be captured just as [with] normal camera phones. The ROB-1 can rove around for a distance of up to 50 meters from the user, streaming video to the phone's display. The device has three wheels and spherical shape, which is combined with camera technology to make it agile and flexible with a wide field of vision. Eleven centimetres in diameter, ROB-1 can move forwards, backwards, look around corners, pivot on the spot or tilt the camera 70° upwards and 20° downwards... The Bluetooth Motion Cam ROB-1 will be available during Q3 2005." ---Geekzone


"Irish Policy Group Pushes for Unlicensed Spectrum" by Nancy Gohring, Wi-Fi Net News Europe, 7 March: "Scagaire, an Irish Policy Research Group, submitted comments to... ComReg, the regulatory body in Ireland [during ComReg's consultation on spectrum management reform]: Among other issues, the response encourages ComReg to pursue any policy that allows for the availability of community, non-profit, non-commercial wireless services. The document also notes a line from the European Convention on Human Rights which restricts the rights of governments to limit the ability of people to send and receive information. That line is beginning to be used as an argument for only issuing licenses as an exception, not the rule. This is the same human rights argument put forth by the newly formed Open Spectrum UK group in its comments to OfCom, the UK regulatory body..."


"The WiMedia Alliance and the Multiband OFDM Alliance ultrawideband group have now joined forces on Wednesday [2 March] in hopes of bringing the eventual ratification of a UWB standard closer to reality. The new alliance will now be known as WiMedia Alliance Inc. The group is currently working on various protocols with the goal of finalizing them by this May...." ---UWB Weblog


Intel and NTT DocoMo to propose IEEE mesh standard - "Intel and NTT DoCoMo are working on a technology proposal to add mesh networking capability to IEEE 802.11 wireless LAN standards... Roxanne Gryder, marketing development manager in Intel's Communications Technology group, said existing mesh networking protocols are all proprietary... 'We believe there needs to be a standard in this space.' The 802.11s proposal supports self-discovering network nodes, and multi-hop and direct links between nodes. Gryder said the 802.11s working group, which was established in January last year, will receive its first technical proposals this summer. 'We expect that in 2006 we will see pre-standard versions of 802.11s,' she added." ---"IDF: Wireless LAN gets meshed," ElectronicsWeekly.com


Innovation Commons and the End to End Network - In the Bitsplitter Blog, Mike Rowehl transcribed an interesting paragraph from a speech made last September by Larry Lessig at the SDForum, entitled "Comedy of the Commons." That quote - and Mike's commentary - explain why the Internet's architecture is so appealing to innovators - and why unlicensed radio bands are similarly appealing.


SMS from Japanese "cram schools" triggered by RFID - "...after-school cram schools in [the] Tokyo metropolitan area, introduced a system that uses RFID to send SMS messages to parents when their kids arrive at and leave cram schools. When kids arrive at (and leave) a cram school, they show their RFID cards to a reader that automatically sends SMS messages to their parents (e.g., 'Masaru-kun arrived here at 4:30PM.') Cram school hours typically start in the evening and could last till very late at night. So, some parents probably welcome this system if it gives them better peace of mind." ---originally posted in the Gyoumane Blog in Japanese, translated into English by "RFID in Japan"


Free voicecalls at 350 Wi-fi hotspots in the UK - "Internet telephony company Skype and wireless broadband operator Broadreach will offer free telephone calls over the Web from laptops and handheld computers at 350 locations in Britain, including major train stations. 'Starting today, wherever there is a ReadytoSurf hotspot, Skype users will enjoy the benefits of their Skype account at no charge whilst away from the home or office,' the two companies said in a statement on Thursday..." ---Reuters via ZDnet UK.


Harold Feld posted this on wetmachine: "...the FCC has been considering opening up the 2650-3700 MHz band to unlicensed use. The rumor is that the FCC will vote on the item at its March 10 meeting. I have also heard that the item is not particularly friendly to mesh networks. We have until Wed. March 2, 2005, 5 p.m. Eastern Time to turn this around. Wanna help?

"The 3650-3700 MHz band is relatively open and is under consideration by the FCC for expanded unlicensed use. The FCC proposed to allow fixed 'high power' (25 watts EIRP) unlicensed operation and more standard mobile 'low power' (1 watt EIRP) operation-- as long as certain incumbent operations are protected.

"I have heard that the FCC instead is likely to authorize high power as a 'licensed lite' regime in which the first operator is protected against interference and all subsequent operators must seek permission of the first operator to activate their systems. This is known as a 'first in time, first in right' scheme. I have heard from the good folks at CUWIN that this would be a disaster for low power mesh networks in urban areas. Basically, the party that gets to the tallest building first will be able to blanket the entire area and prevent other systems from going live.

"Under federal law, parties may file comments with the FCC until Wed., March 2, 5 p.m. Eastern time. I am urging anyone who cares about the future of mesh networks to file at the FCC and emphasize the following points:

  1. Open spectrum/open source is a volunteer community. Barriers to entry must be low, and the FCC must recognize that investment happens without big corporations or well-funded start ups. Rules that prohibit or limit the ability of multiple entrants will make it next to impossible for open source mesh systems to deploy.
  2. Low power is more important in many communities than high-power. The FCC must not sacrifice the possibility of low power mesh in the 3650-3700 MHz band for the sake of high-power in the band. Ideally, the FCC should have rules that permit both, as high power is necessary for backhaul and can be useful in point to point. But if the FCC insists on chosing, it should keep the low power option and implement high power when cognitive radio technology has improved.
  3. Above all, the FCC must not establish exclusive licensing or 'first in time, first in right' site licensing that will make it impossible for communities to deploy numerous open source solutions...

"To file a comment, go to the FCC's ECFS comment upload page. In the 'proceeding' field, type 04-151. The rest is self-explanatory.

"You do not need to be a U.S. citizen to file a comment. Anyone can do so. You should, however, explain your interest in the proceeding (e.g., 'I am an open source developer and I wish to take advantage of new opportunities for open source-based wireless networking'). Then reiterate from the key points in your own words.

"Remember, if the FCC does not hear from smart people, it will only make dumb rules..."


"Sun Microsystems, attempting to rebound from its currently poor hardware technology situation, is planning a number of new and interesting technology introductions for the near future. One of the most interesting technologies Sun is researching is 'proximity communication,' which means inter-chip communication without wires.

"The interconnects use a process known as capacitive coupling to transmit data. Capacitive coupling is a very simple concept that takes advantage of the fact that any two wires can form a capacitor... These capacitive couples are essentially wires designed specifically to form a capacitor with corresponding wires on a nearby chip. This method may prove very fast because very few--if any--charges will be sent from one wire to the other; instead, data bit values will be determined by the electric field between the wires in the capacitive couple.

"Unfortunately, this technology will require extraordinarily precise packaging and placement because the wires involved in the capacitive couple must line up as perfectly as possible in order to avoid interference from the other capacitive couples. That fact alone may prevent capacitive coupling from ever reaching consumer-level devices, but Sun is confident that the technology will be widely available sometime in the next few years..."---"Sun details wireless, chip-level interconnect technology" by Nicholas G. Lesniewski-Laas, Geek.com


"Last week, Marc [Tuters] showed me a bit about GPSter's most current project, which involves building a mobile command center to research the notion of a 'Mobile Digital Commons' (the name of the network which is currently funding them). This primarily means collaborative cartography and unlicensed wireless communication (eg. wi-fi, low-power FM) but also includes concepts about public space, remote internet access, as well as social, environmental and community issues to a lesser degree. The intent of this project is not to hype technology, but rather deal with these issues with a mind to aesthetics and/or social relevance within the context of Canadian new media art..." ---from "MC3: Mobile Canadian Command Centre," Informationlab.org


See our News Archive for earlier reports.

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