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RF Shorts – Aug. 4, 2011

LightSquared Comment Deadline Passes
The deadline for filing comments with the FCC about LightSquared's proposal to use frequencies near the GPS band in its terrestrial network ended Saturday. I have not had a chance to review the filed comments, but if you're interested they can be found on the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System. As of 3 a.m. Thursday, there were some 2,770 comments identified.'s article FAA Estimates $70+ Billion in Costs, Nearly 800 Deaths, Due to LightSquared Interference to GPS paints a dark picture of what would happen if the FCC does grant LightSquared's waiver request.

The Washington Post also reported that Analyst says key FCC staff excluded in LightSquared decision; Agency denies claim. The FCC denied this claim, saying that its international bureau, wireless bureau and engineering department jointly drafted the waiver.

I wonder whether the group drafting the waiver included the top engineers in these FCC departments or whether academics, attorneys, and economists guided its creation.

FCC Gives Nod to Microsoft as TV band White Space Database Administrator
The FCC conditionally designated Microsoft Corporation as a TV bands database administrator. This designation was opposed by the Engineers for the Integrity of Broadcast Auxiliary Services Spectrum (EIBASS) group, which noted that Microsoft's request to serve as administrator was filed 15 months after the FCC's deadline for filing. EIBASS also flagged Microsoft's proposal for its failure to identify an entire category of licensed stations entitled to protections (TV STL/TV relay/TV translator relay stations), and also for Microsoft's performance in connection with its Special Temporary Authority station WE9XUO set up at the NAB Show in Las Vegas. The FCC dismissed these concerns, saying that if Microsoft satisfies all of the conditions in the designation it will be allowed to make its database available for actual use for the five-year term specified in the rules.

Extending Wi-Fi With a USB "Antenna"
One of my favorite columns during the early days of personal computing was Jerry Pournelle's "Chaos Manor" column in Byte Magazine. I was pleased to see that he's still writing columns for Information Week. In a posting this week in Computing at Chaos Manor: Pournelle's on Wi-Fire he describes an inexpensive (about $50) combination antenna and USB Wi-Fi adapter with greatly extended range. As another alternative, you might consider purchasing an inexpensive USB Wi-Fi adapter and crafting a reflector from cardboard, wok strainer, or other suitable reflecting surface. The adapter is placed at the signal focal point, and since there's no coaxial cable back to the PC (the transceiver is at the focal point) there's no line loss.

NASA Closes MILA Tracking Station
With the end of the space shuttle program, the tracking station at NASA's Merritt Island Launch Annex (MILA) facility has been shut down after some 45 years of service. The facility's 30-foot antenna was stowed for the last time during a closing ceremony held on July 28. MILA was established during the Apollo program, and has been responsible for tracking radio transmissions from every shuttle launch. An article on describes the facility and its closing. The station is scheduled to permanently go out of business on Sept. 1. NASA has planned a new state-of-the-art tracking station to replace MILA.

Chilean Radio Telescope Facility Opens
On the same day the MILA track facility was closed, the BBC reported that the Alma radio telescope facility is open for business. This happened after the 16th antenna was put into place at the facility in Chile. Dr. John Richter, the UK Alma project scientist based at Cambridge University said, "There's nothing really magical about the number 16, but the sensitivity gain on current instruments is so great it would be a shame not to start doing some serious science with Alma." Antenna 16 is also the first European antenna to be installed on the 5,000-meter high mountain on the Chile's Atacama Chajnanter plateau. The facility, which will eventually host 66 antennas, is designed to detect millimeter and submillimeter signals from space. Richer observed that the facility was "the most complex observatory ever constructed on the ground in terms of its engineering and scale."

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.