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RF Shorts – Aug. 6, 2010

You've probably seen stories about Chris Paget's GSM cell phone hack at DEFCON. Chris set up his own cell phone base station--at a cost of less than $1,500--that was able to intercept calls from nearby cell phones after turning off encryption. You probably also wondered what the FCC had to say about that. covers this in the article Hacker taps mobile calls with £950 device. "Paget received a call from FCC officials on Friday who raised a list of possible regulations his demonstration might violate. To get around legal concerns, he broadcast on a GSM spectrum for HAM radios, 900 MHz, which is the same frequency used by GSM phones and towers in Europe, thus avoiding possible violations of U.S. regulations."

In the "more neat toys (ahem, tools)" department, Agilent announced its new N9342C handheld spectrum analyzer. It covers from 100 kHz to 7 GHz, is available with a tracking generator and has a typical displayed average noise level of only -166 dBm/Hz. The high sensitivity and wide dynamic range make the unit ideal for in-field measurements and interference tracking; however, lack of digital modulation analysis tools makes it less useful for setting up digital broadcast transmitters.

InformationWeek ran an article this week on Mobile DTV, specifically Qualcomm's MediaFLO. Esther Shein's article Dedicated Mobile TV Faces Weak Future includes this quote on MedaFLO's woes from Juniper Research principal analyst Dr. Windsor Holden: "The delay in analog switch-off prevented it from gaining national coverage; its partners set the service price at too high a level which put off potential customers. When you factor in likely free-to-air competition over ATSC-M/H in the medium term, then clearly MediaFLO faces a difficult future in the U.S."

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.