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« Seattle Suprasonics | Main | Streaming Through the Multiplex »

March 18, 2002

Sirius Rejoinders

An alert reader pointed me to the phrase in the Sirius petition that reads, "The above limit would go into effect 18 months after the date of final adoption of the rule and apply to all devices manufactured thereafter." I missed that in my reading, but it still feels like we're talking about the thin edge of the wedge here. I don't believe this is about future devices; in 18 to 24 months, there will be 200 million or more Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices in use worldwide, if not many more.

Jeff Butler pointed me to a post which addresses industry responses from Intersil and Motorola to the Sirius petition.

Intersil's response notes in a quite lovely phrase, If DARS providers have trouble serving their customers, Part 15 is not to blame. Rather, it appears the DARS providers built a fragile system, and now turn to the Commission for relief from the shortcomings of their own engineering. This echoes what I and others have been saying since the news reached the public threshold. Another devastating retort: Sirius states that the maximum tolerable interference level for its receivers is –152.6 dBW/MHz. This level is actually about 8 dB below the thermal noise floor. Meaning that heat in the air creates more noise than the level of signal Sirius was objecting to. It's a good read.

Motorola's filing notes that, Interestingly enough in the filing by XM the main source of interference is not the equipment operating in the 2.4 GHz band but interference from vehicle ignition noise.

I've rarely seen such open scorn in legal documents.

CTIA and Wi-Fi

The Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association's annual conference is underway in Florida right now. Enhancing Wi-Fi's role at the conference was this morning's keynote address by Sky Dayton, founder of Earthlink and more recently of Boingo Wireless. Alan Reiter has blogged the keynote and discussion live as he will continue to do. Dan Gillmor, veteran tech reporter and columnist, is also blogging from the event. (The dominant mode of reporting may already have shifted.)

Dayton used his keynote to announce four Boingo events, all of which slop over into other companies and realms.

  • Agere deal. Boingo's software will ship on all Agere Orinoco Gold and Silver card's CD-ROMs starting next quarter. Agere is a dominant wireless card vendor, one of the top three, and this will push Boingo software into millions of hands without any downloads.
  • HP deal. People who buy a Pavilion notebook will be asked if they want to sign-up for Boingo in their setup process. This reaches hundreds of thousands of new customers at the right point in their thinking process.
  • Partnership with GoAmerica, which will roll out 1,500 hot spots in the second half of 2002. This is a news item in itself, of course, the first major wireless provider adding Wi-Fi to its repertoire from scratch. GoAmerica offers wireless data and its service offerings are typically available through PDAs. Boingo and hereUare will be able to use GoAmerica's network, which goes a long way towards the 5,000 hot spots Dayton had projected for the Boingo network at the end of 2002.
  • Nomadix gateway ships Boingo ready. Why they didn't call this Boingo in a Box, I have no idea, but the Nomadix Universal Subscriber Gateway will feature a plug in, turn on, go Boingo affiliate option. (Note to Nomadix: stop with all the JavaScript on your site already -- pages flash, reload, and jump around.)

Alan reports from the CTIA event that Voicestream's head, John Stanton, was on stage with Sky Dayton, with a discussion moderated by CTIA chair Tom Wheeler. Alan hoped that a Voicestream/Boingo partnership was going to be announced, but Stanton is obviously still sussing out whether Boingo is a competitor or partner. I argue quite clearly: partner. Voicestream should be in the business of building the network and allowing its aggregate customers (cell/WLAN/corporate) access, but shouldn't compete with, but rather suck revenue from, others who want to load its network with traffic.

The Boingo installation at CTIA, covering a million square feet, is open to all users, not just those with the equipment configuration normally required by Boingo's software. In an excellent display of technical and marketing savvy, Boingo added a temporary gateway page for Mac and PDA users as well as non-compliant Windows users. This made everyone happy, apparently, and it works just fine for the event. But it highlights for Boingo the importance of rapidly rolling out more driver and platform support to keep the momentum going.

Boingo's model continues to be make it easy to access networks via software that handles account information, security, and finds hot spots. A gateway page can do none of those things.

Stroh Feedback on Sirius Petition

Steve Stroh, the editor and publisher of the Focus on Broadband Wireless Internet Access newsletter sent me some excellent feedback on the Sirius satellite radio system's petition with the FCC about enforcing out-of-band signals from the 2.4 GHz band. With his permission, I quote his response here.

I feel that Sirius could well have an uphill battle on its hands with its petition. I don't think that Sirius quite appreciates the enormity of the entire 2.4 GHz market that its petition will affect- basically ANYTHING that transmits on 2.4 GHz. The response to this petition will likely be enormous, and well-crafted.

The worst threat of interference from 2.4 GHz out of band emissions will be in urban areas... where Sirius plans to deploy "repeaters" (actually, terrestrial transmitters) transmitting at hundreds and perhaps thousands of watts of power. This because satellite signals don't work well in urban concrete canyons. In rural areas and other "open spaces", where users will be out of range of such repeaters (receiving direct from satellite), signals will be weakest... but in such areas there will be much less 2.4 GHz equipment operating. It's not a given that Sirius will win the battle to erect their repeaters as proposed, so this "further restrict 2.4 GHz out of band emissions" petition seems to me like a backup plan.

In my opinion, the biggest threat to 802.11 usage is not Sirius, but rather the issue of RF Lighting, which has been looming for some time. At the 2002 Chicago WISPCon last week, I met someone who had tried to deploy a Part 15 system (they weren't using 802.11) in proximity to an RF lighting system. The Part 15 system could not operate at all, and this was chilling because the system in question was a Frequency Hopping (FH) system, which is much more robust than Direct Sequence (used in 802.11b). If the FH system couldn't work around an RF lighting system, DS systems haven't a prayer. For a bit of background, see

Thanks, Steve, for this insight. RF Lighting wasn't even on my radar (as it were).

Other News for 3/18/2002

802.11 Planet Conference's June agenda released: I learned vast amounts and met great people in the industry at the last 802.11 Planet conference, the first such event, this last November in Santa Clara. The first event had reasonable attendance given its rescheduling (post-Sept. 11) and the climate around flying. The smaller numbers didn't suppress the excitement and quality of attendee, however; I had hundreds of great conversations and listened to fantastic speakers. With a resurgence in people's confidence in the air and the economy, I expect Philadelphia to be jam-packed with entrepreneurs, techies, IT folk, and writers.

Ricoh offers $1,300 Wi-Fi IP camera: MacCentral notes that this device is both Mac and PC compatible. It's more like a computer with a built-in camera than a camera with incidental computer features. It can take live motion and still pictures, fax images, and make your coffee.