RF Shorts – Sept. 29, 2011

What Spectrum Shortage?

I came across a number of articles this week on broadband and spectrum. The article Wireless spectrum shortage? What spectrum shortage? by Marguerite Reardon on CNET caught my eye. The article quotes a recent report from Citigroup that says there is is plenty of wireless spectrum available to meet wireless broadband demands, but the problem may be too much of it is in the wrong hands. The article says that U.S. operators have licenses for about 538 MHz of wireless spectrum, but only about 192 MHz of that spectrum is currently being used.

The article doesn't dispute the need for some additional spectrum for wireless broadband, but notes that spectrum now used for 2G and 3G services can be switched to LTE 4G services with a 700 percent improvement in efficiency. Much of the unused spectrum is in the hands of companies without the finances or desire to built it out. This spectrum could be put to use by allowing these companies to sell their spectrum to companies that need it.

Australia's National Broadband Network Won't Provide as Many Jobs as Originally Forecast
The build-out of the national broadband network in Australia isn't providing the amount of jobs that were originally forecast according to Lucy Battersby's article Broadband jobs forecast falls short by thousands. Australia's national broadband network uses fiber-optic cable, not wireless. NBN Company, the government-owned company building the network, said only 16,000 workers will be needed, with 80 percent of them used in low-skilled jobs. The original government forecast said the project would support 25,000 jobs every year over the life of the project and 37,000 jobs at its peak.

Genachowski Pushes Spectrum Auction
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski had his own take on the impact of broadband on the economy and jobs in his presentation "Jobs and the Broadband Economy" at Living Social in Washington, D.C. earlier this week. In contrast to the Australian news, Genachowski pointed to the jobs the network itself creates, noting Living Social has created nearly 2,000 American jobs. He used the occasion to emphasize the need to close four broadband gaps, the first of those being spectrum.

Genachowski singled out the need for voluntary incentive auctions. He mentioned that Rockefeller/Hutchison legislation was approved in committee but still hasn't become law. He didn't mention the Dingell bill, which unlike the Rockefeller bill, provides precise details on how the incentive auctions would work and how free over-the-air TV, for low power as well as full power stations, would be protected. I suspect if a bill similar to Dingell's HR2482 were introduced in the Senate, we'd see more action in this area. At the present time, as Rep. Dingell (D-MI) has pointed out, the FCC has offered no details on how an incentive auction would work, how broadcast spectrum would be repacked, and what would happen if enough broadcasters did not voluntarily give up spectrum to meet the goals of the National Broadband plan.

Locata Offers Indoor GPS-style Positioning Solution Using Ground-based Transmitters
Indoor GPS reception is a problem. Several web sites this past week covered a Locata press release on the company's unveiling of the "World's First GPS-Style Indoor Positioning Solution" at the Institute of Navigation GNSS 2011 Conference. Nunzio Gambala, Chairman and CEO of Locata, announced, "Today, Locata is instrumental in delivering the future of positioning technology, creating 'indoor GPS' that is just as complete and accurate as traditional outdoor GPS. After years of development and testing, we have architected the only system in the world capable of providing precision positioning across large indoor areas where GPS signals can't reach."

Locata's technology, developed by David Small, Locata's co-founder, overcomes multipath. Gambala explained, "Multipath has always been the bane of high-accuracy radio positioning indoors. And I can sincerely say David has created a historic world-first with this invention of a completely new type of antenna that mitigates multipath. The TimeTenna is utterly unique in the way that it works." He continues, "It's very hard for a layman to appreciate just how difficult multipath is to overcome. In positioning and radio circles it's regularly called 'the devil' because it's everywhere and impossible to defeat. Most engineers are in awe of David and the Locata team's accomplishment. In the past few weeks, as we've begun to show select groups how it's done, the accolades flowing to our team have been truly unstinting."

I found more details on the technology behind the system on the Locata web site. The system uses multiple transmitters operating in the 2.4 GHz band to cover an area. The "TimeTenna" antenna is a key part of the technology used to work in indoors where multipath is high. The antenna is presently about the size of a soccer ball.

FCC Experimental Licenses
The FCC released a list of experimental license grants between 7/1/11 and 8/1/11. I did not see much of interest to broadcasters except for WF2XUJ, issued to Southern Methodist University, for use of a wide range of frequencies, including all UHF TV channels, to "test and develop hardware and software equipments and performance of the wireless system" fixed and mobile on the SMU Campus in Dallas, Texas.

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. As vice president of Broadcast Technology for NBCUniversal Local, H. Douglas Lung leads NBC and Telemundo-owned stations’ RF and transmission affairs, including microwave, radars, satellite uplinks, and FCC technical filings. Beginning his career in 1976 at KSCI in Los Angeles, Lung has nearly 50 years of experience in broadcast television engineering. Beginning in 1985, he led the engineering department for what was to become the Telemundo network and station group, assisting in the design, construction and installation of the company’s broadcast and cable facilities. Other projects include work on the launch of Hawaii’s first UHF TV station, the rollout and testing of the ATSC mobile-handheld standard, and software development related to the incentive auction TV spectrum repack.
A longtime columnist for TV Technology, Doug is also a regular contributor to IEEE Broadcast Technology. He is the recipient of the 2023 NAB Television Engineering Award. He also received a Tech Leadership Award from TV Tech publisher Future plc in 2021 and is a member of the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society and the Society of Broadcast Engineers.