March 15, 2002 | Wireless News Archives

Wireless Providers In 'Sirius' Trouble
By Jim Wagner

CHICAGO -- A legal representative of the Wireless Communications Association (WCA) says it's likely the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will sign off on a petition by a satellite radio company that severely hinders providers using the unlicensed 2.4GHz wireless frequency.

Robert Primosch, a partner at Wilkinson, Barker & Knauer, LLP, told a gathering of providers at the Wireless Internet service providers convention (WISPCON) here a "battle royale" would soon ensue between licensed and unlicensed providers over out-of-band emissions.

"I don't think the proposal will have a problem going through the FCC," he said. "The FCC will most likely pass a rulemaking, though providers can ultimately alter the wording of the order if they get together and make comments to the Sirius petition."

Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. is one of several satellite radio services in the country, though this particular company won't launch its service until later this year. That didn't stop the company from filing a petition for rulemaking with the FCC in January, saying the satellite radio industry's $3 billion investment in its technology was in jeopardy, due to emissions caused by unlicensed wireless equipment in the U.S.

They, and the other licensed operators Sirius has gotten to join the cause, have big problems with the "cumulative" affect of the thousands and thousands of wireless communications devices popping up around the U.S. upon their satellite service.

Sirius, according to the petition, is specifically worried about cars that use both a satellite radio service and a 802.11-based product, like a wireless phone or personal digital assistant (PDA). The emissions caused by the phone or PDA operating on the 2.4GHz frequency could interfere with the satellite radio, officials say.

The satellite radio industry uses an adjacent frequency to deliver its service, using 2.32 to 2.34GHz. The unlicensed band, 2.4-2.483GHz, is only 55MHz away from the upper end of the licensed band, Sirius officials say, and could possibly overlap. As such, Sirius is asking the FCC to reduce the wattage of those unlicensed devices, to 8.6 u V/M, or the wattage gadgets expel to transmit their 2.4GHz signal.

The reach of the petition is widespread, affecting industries as relatively small as the fixed wireless industry to everyday industries whose existence is almost ubiquitous in American households -- digital TVs and microwave ovens.

The petition will force 2.4GHz equipment to reduce out-of-band emissions by one-third, an amount that will kill the wireless equipment industry, said Patrick Leary, chief evangelist for Alvarion Ltd. ( NASDAQ:ALVR ), a wireless equipment manufacturer.

"The impact would be huge," he said. "Not only would you need to make future products compliant, you would need to go back and retrofit products already out there."

It's a rule that would cost wireless equipment makers millions to correct, he said, and would involve almost every communications provider in the U.S., including digital TV manufacturers.

In the 1980s, when government organizations and industries were reserving huge chunks of the wireless spectrum for themselves, the FCC set aside a range of frequencies (2.4GHz) for independent use. What the FCC couldn't know at the time was the frequency's popularity with the advent of spread spectrum technologies, which let operator's spread voice and data communications over a range of channels to make up for some of the frequency's drawbacks.

Since then, the frequency has been a haven for independent wireless communications providers and is the wireless home of 802.11 and Bluetooth. The frequency is also used by microwave oven manufacturers throughout the U.S.