Tag Archives: FCC

It’s Time for YOU to Get Wise About CBRS

CBRS search

It stands for Citizens Broadband Radio Service, and has nothing to do with CB radio despite the similarities in the acronym. It’s time for my fellow Wi-Fi types to start paying attention to CBRS for real, and I’ll explain why in a bit.

A Quick Look Back to 2105

The CBRS thing been simmering for at least a half-dozen years. Let me quickly take you back to 2015, where I sat in on a related session at Wireless Network Field Day 8, by Dave Wright. Back then, Dave worked for Ruckus Wireless, now he’s the Director of Regulatory Affairs & Network Standards at CommScope, and President of the CBRS Alliance. Dave’s a fantastic gent, if you ever get the chance to talk with him. But even though that 2015 presentation could not have been delivered by anyone better, it still felt kinda faraway and foreign to the ears of a room full of Wi-Fi folks.

Almost There- 2019

But 2015 gave way to the future, and Dave’s vision very much would come to fruition. Sticking with Field Day, I was fortunate enough to go to Mobility Field Day 4 in 2019. This time the presenting vendor on the topic was startup Celona (new company, but staffed with some deep wireless experience and familiar names to us in the WLAN industry). At the time Celona presented, CBRS had long since advanced from being a twinkle in the eye of folks like Dave Wright, but still wasn’t quite ready for market as a production option for Private LTE and other applications. (What other applications? There’s a good paragraph on that in this Network World article.)

Early 2020- The FCC Opens the Floodgates for CBRS

Just a few weeks ago (it’s mid-February as I write this), the FCC delivered the news that everyone with a stake in CBRS, Private LTE, and in-building cellular was waiting for: the 3.5 GHz spectrum was officially available for sharing for these applications. Here’s a good article on that, along with the FCC’s own reference pages on 3.5 GHz.

Now things are moving… and we get to why we as Wi-Fi folks need to start paying attention.

Our Turf is Soon to Be Trampled On

I find the marketing blather that has 5G making Wi-Fi extinct, or that has Wi-Fi 6 making cellular irrelevant, to be pretty asinine. But then again…marketers. Whatever. It’s pretty clear that several trains have left the station, and they all will impact our environments and possibly/hopefully our employment, skills, and project opportunities.

Wi-Fi 6 is a given- it’s what comes next for us WLAN doers. 5G has new relevance given that a small cell will need to bolted up to every street light, cactus, bus stop and homeless person to get the coverage and performance that the mobile industry is promising out of Millimeter-wave 5G systems. Bringing 5G (or even 4G) inside of modern RF-unfriendly buildings gets us back to discussions of CBRS and private LTE. And so does the notion of industrial settings where maybe LTE-style wireless makes more sense than Wi-Fi for wireless connectivity, for a number of reasons.

We need to not only understand the changing wireless landscape, but also to embrace it and try to stake our claims in it.

Get Educated

There are no shortage of general-information articles out there for CBRS, private-LTE, etc. here’s a great one from Corning (I just spoke with them on this topic, but that will be it’s own blog). And there is certainly a lot of marketing floofypoo to be stepped around.

But if you want more formalized learning, check out this offering from CommScope. I have not taken it yet, but have heard good things from esteemed colleagues who have. Coursera also has a CBRS offering, and I have every reason to believe that CBRS will eventually manifest itself through CWNP’s excellent training materials in some form or fashion.

So… why care about CBRS? It’s here, for real, for starters. It’s being deployed. Someone needs to design it’s coverage, and tools like iBwave are already being used by many of us to do Wi-Fi. Why not get a piece of the new pie? If we don’t, someone else will. People are gonna luuuuuuv their Wi-Fi 6, yet are still going to demand rock-sold in-building cellular after spending fat coin on those $1K+ mobile devices and as more devices become “wireless” in every possible definition of the word.

This is the new world, my friends. Digital transformation, blah blah blah. There’s no escaping it.

Three Inconvenient Truths and Some Conspiracy Theory About the FCC’s Mi-Fi Enforcements

The recent enforcement actions by the FCC against hotels that disrupted private Mi-Fi usage are interesting for a number of reasons. If you’re a Mi-Fi user that travels and you don’t really understand or care about the inner workings of business wireless networks, you likely did some variation of a fist-pump because evil companies must now seemingly mend their dastardly ways. (This blog may challenge the validity of that assumption, so click out of here now if you don’t want your bubble burst.) If you are a long-time wireless admin of business Wi-Fi networks, you are likely scratching your head a bit over several of the finer points of what the FCC is up to these days in going after companies like Marriott and MC Dean. I would guess that some Wi-Fi admins are feeling a bit uncomfortable but can’t quite put their fingers on why that is, but what the FCC’s doing all of the sudden just feels weird. And for those of you that are trying to keep an open mind about what it all really means as all sides of the debate try to be heard, I give you the following to ponder:

1. “Our Premises, Our Airspace to Keep Healthy” Since Late ’90s

The 802.11 Wi-Fi standard dates back to the late 90s. For over 15 years, wireless network administrators, security managers, and CTO/CEOs have been writing and enforcing policy about signals that compete with their WLAN systems and the use of “rogue” access points not put in by “Central IT”. Many of these policies pre-date Mi-Fi’s existance, but often address off-my-wire ad hoc (peer to peer, my laptop to yours) direct connect rogues that both interfere and bring their own security concerns. This is an entrenched technical cultural issue. Though Mi-Fi doesn’t meet the textbook definition of IBSS ad hoc networking, it does share the properties of being a competing Wi-Fi signal and it’s own security risk in that if you know what you are doing, you can bridge “isolated” networks to each other pretty easily. Rogue ad hoc is just as important to rogue on-wire by most WLAN policies I’ve reviewed- for both RF interference and security concerns.

All of these (and plenty more) are scraped from easily-found published private network policies on the Internet:

If there are cordless phones, ad hoc or peer-to-peer WAP’s in the prohibited frequency, [we} will attempt to notify the user in writing and ask them to remove the device.  If the device is not removed within 24 hours, [we] will take necessary actions to stop the interference of the device.

This policy covers any devices and users to adhere to the rules, regulations and policies concerning security and prevention of interference.

Due to possible interference from other sources within the 802.11 wireless 2.4GHz frequency range, [our] wireless spectrum should be kept clear of unauthorised transmissions.

Interference means the degradation of a wireless communication signal caused by electromagnetic radiation from another source. Interference can slow down or eliminate a wireless transmission depending on the strength of the interfering signal.

Interference or disruption of other authorized communications that result from the intentional or incidental misuse or misapplication of wireless network radio frequency spectrum is prohibited.

In the event that a wireless device interferes with other equipment, [we] shall resolve the interference as determined by use priority.

So, those of us administering wireless networks tend to recognize that solutions enforce policy, and the policies that guide WLAN security and interference management are nothing new. They are so ingrained in the Wi-Fi psyche from the system side that WLAN vendors and companies that train new WLAN staff are all on board with the philosophy that you can do what you need to to keep your own airspace clean and healthy for the greater good of your users, and to enforce YOUR OWN policies. And… this culture has been in place under the FCC’s own nose for all these years. Mi-FI devices are easy to lump into the spirit of long-established Wi-FI policies, with no malicious intent in doing so.

2. Non-Accommodation Equals Disruption, Too- To Users.

In convention centers where big events are going on, the Wi-Fi network will be made up of dozens (if not hundreds) of extremely low-powered WLAN cells. These cells only have limited channels to use, so staggering channels meticulously and controlling cell size is pivotal to network operation (and event success, in many cases). Along comes a Mi-Fi, with it’s often bad-neighbor config that blasts out a strength that may be an order of magnitude stronger than the conference Wi-Fi cells. As the Mi-Fi disrupts multiple cells (that other conference goers are trying to use), those same cells are also interfering with the Mi-Fi device. In these scenarios, there are typically no “free channels” so mutual interference is a fact of life.

So… I go to use my Mi-Fi at a convention center during an event, and lo and behold, it doesn’t work well. All I know from the headlines is that the FCC says it’s OK for me to do what I’m trying to do, so if it’s not working well, the stinking hotel must be trying to block me! I better report them to the FCC! It’s an outrage!  Except it’s not- it’s physics at work. So what comes next- convention centers needing to ask Mi-Fi users permission to use specific channels?

3.  The FCC Is Closing Many Field Offices, Which May Impact It’s Ability to Enforce. 

The agency is calling it an efficiency move, but what impact the cuts will have on the agency’s ability to enforce it’s own rules remains to be seen.

Let’s Play the “What If” Game A Bit

I, and others have voiced a fair amount of concern about not only what the FCC is doing with it’s new tactic of huge fines, but why it’s being done with very little substantive guidance. Even two of the five commissioners at the FCC don’t seem to agree, or to get what the agency is supposed to be accomplishing with their new fundraising campaign. With lack of leadership from the FCC, the WLAN community is left to speculate about what they could be thinking in DC. Here are a couple of theories to ponder:

  • What if the FCC really is clueless about how important Wi-FI has become to businesses of all types? What if, while we as IT organizations have been doing our best to write and enforce good WLAN policy, and have bought WLAN tools that help us to enforce those policies for the greatest number of people on our premises that rely on Wi-Fi, the FCC in it’s ivory tower was oblivious to it all for the last 15 years? What if an out-of-touch FCC is thinking one thing, while the rest of the WLAN community is basically thinking something else?  It might explain the rush to crank out big fines for what amounts to the same policy that private WLAN environments have been enforcing for the last 15 years. Because the hotels were charging big fees, they have cast the whole thing in a stinky light (and deserve to be called out on it), but the issues for the rest of us are made murky because of the FCC’s Mi-Fi related hits on the hotels and convention centers. It would seem that we all need help (that the FCC has no interest in providing) in:
    • Re-writing our business policies to accommodate Mi-Fi while still preserving our own business continuity
    • Understanding whether the hotels were only in trouble because they were trying to charge (what everyone seems to agree was too much) for their own Wi-Fi (it sure reads that way at times)
    • Or coming to grips with- if it’s what the FCC is saying- Mi-Fi must be accommodated everywhere under all circumstances regardless of collateral damage from it’s interference
  • What if the FCC is just using these headline-grabbing fat fines to sew paranoia as a way to augment their enforcement capabilities as they reduce field offices and employee head-count? Uncertainty and paranoia can certainly be force-multipliers when you have the ability to name your price when handing out fines, and the bigger the fine the harder the impact of the tactic. The new-found interest in taking issue with practices that many companies have had written into their IT policies since Wireless Day 1 times out nicely with the cutting back of FCC field offices. It’s just a thought…

My personal sympathies are absolutely with those users who didn’t want to pay what the convention centers were asking for Wi-Fi. But there is so much more to the whole picture than that, and it needs to be talked about.

My related articles on this:

An Open Letter to the FCC

Dear Chairman Wheeler and Commissioners,

In response to the recent Commission actions relating to Smart City  and Marriott blocking of Wi-Fi hotspots, as a WLAN professional I implore you to recognize that these actions are creating significant amounts of confusion for enterprise Wi-Fi environments and those of us who keep them operational for the millions of business clients that use them every day.

The running theme of late very much seems to be “you can’t use Wi-Fi mitigation techniques to deny individuals the use of their paid-for cellular-equipped personal hotspots” (my own words). But from here, the questions start.

DA 15-113 Enforcement Advisory states clearly “Willful or malicious interference with Wi-Fi hot spots is illegal.” That seems pretty cut and dry, until later in the document we read “No hotel, convention center, or other commercial establishment or the network operator providing services at such establishments may intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots on such premises, including as part of an effort to force consumers to purchase access to the property owner’s Wi-Fi network. Such action is illegal and violations could lead to the assessment of substantial monetary penalties.”

Given that most of us doing Wi-Fi are not lawyers and very much want to stay within legal boundaries, these questions hang over the WLAN space:

  1. What constitutes an “other commercial establishment”? Would these be hospitals? Universities? Does it even really matter? If not, why call out just hotels and conference centers?
  2. There is emphasis on Wi-Fi blocking being frowned upon especially when it is used to try to force those using hotspots onto an expensive WLAN service. What if blocking ISN’T used to try to push hotspot users onto a pay Wi-Fi service, but to try to eliminate a hotspot that’s significantly interfering with an organization’s private Wi-Fi and business operations- especially if a free Wi-Fi option is available to the hotspot users?
  3. Are hotspot users free to bring their devices anywhere and everywhere regardless of the interference caused by those hotspots?
  4. In  DA 15-113, and other FCC documents (including those related to Mariott), blocking of Wi-Fi is increasingly implied to equal “jamming”. Does blocking Wi-Fi with either wide band noise in the traditional sense OR network frame manipulation in fact now constitute jamming?
  5. Pretty much all major WLAN vendors sell network management systems that include the very mitigation tools that were used by Marriott and Smart City to block hotspots. Are these tools legal under any circumstances? (If frame manipulation now equals jamming, it would seem not.) If they do have an envisioned legal use, in what situations can they be used without an administrator needing to worry about running afoul of the law? This is perhaps the absolute murkiest aspect of the entire Marriott/Smart City situation to those of us who bought these tools on good faith from our WLAN vendors. If blocking of Wi-Fi is illegal in every situation, why are these tools allowed on the market?

Without clear guidance, there is broad room for misinterpretation of what the FCC both is and is not saying on this general matter. PLEASE consider revisiting DA 15-113 and providing greater clarity on the above questions, for the benefit of all concerned.

Kind regards,

Lee Badman

Could Missing Filters and a Potential Conflict of Interest at the FCC Mean A Bad Deal for Wi-Fi? Another TLPS Blog

Wowsers. If you’re in the WLAN world in any capacity, you’ve likely at least heard  of TLPS. Short for terrestrial low power service, TLPS is a crazily over-hyped twinkle in satellite communications company Globalstar’s eye. The satcomm company is lobbying hard for the FCC to approve it’s very  weird offering, while a range of groups and individuals who actually understand and work with real-world WLAN technologies that would be negatively impacted by TLPS try to bring sound technical counter-arguments to the FCC’s attention. If you need some refresher material, here are past articles I’ve written on TLPS:

Then there’s skepticism by Devin Akin, Kerrisdale Capitol, and Kerrisdale again, and lots of others including the Wi-Fi Alliance the Bluetooth SIG, Microsoft, and Google.

Here’s where anyone pro-TLPS says “So what? Globalstar has it’s own army of supporters.” The problem is, many of them are stark-raving nuts, with little technical acumen, high hopes for getting rich off of TLPS, and a penchant for conspiracy theories about why the FCC hasn’t approved this steaming bundle of joy yet.


Then there’s Greg Gerst. He too would like to make a lot of money off of TLPS, by having it NOT be approved. Gerst is a CFA at Gerst Capitol who has taken a most public short position on Globalstar, but he also happens to be an experienced Cornell-educated BSEE with a decent technical resume in digital communications technology. I don’t know Gerst. I can’t tell you whether he’s a good human being or not, but I do know he has posted impressive ex parte filings stating his case in engineering terms that validate and expand what many of us fear about TLPS.

Gerst is calling out some pretty specific and really disturbing things. If he’s wrong, time will prove him to be a laughingstock. If he’s right, however, then absolute shady dealings are afoot in the offices of the FCC when it comes to The Demonstration (mentioned above in the Network Computing article). And to boot, a potential conflict of interest by one FCC committee member adds an odd shadow to what’s already pretty weird ground.

Globalstar conducted a limited demonstration of their TLPS technology at the FCC’s offices using Ruckus Wireless access points. (To date, I’ve read nowhere that TLPS has been demonstrated with any other brand of AP.) There is a lot of opinion about the validity and results of the rather brief demonstration, but Gerst throws a zinger here, where he claims in his 5/14/15 filing that Globalstar used MODIFIED Ruckus access points while leading the FCC to believe that the test gear was commercially available off the shelf. A screen grab from the filing (it’s an interesting read regardless of how you feel about TLPS):

gerst 1

Gerst reiterates his opinion about the missing filters equaling deceptive testing in a 7/16/15 filing that also calls into question the judgement of one of the FCC’s Technical Advisory Council Members (the chairman, I think) when it comes to TLPS, as he also happens to be a paid consultant working for Globalstar. From the filing:

Regarding the final quote above, it is ironic that Globalstar’s paid lobbyist, Blair Levin, refers to “sound engineering” when a straightforward engineering analysis clearly raises doubts that TLPS will be “compatible with existing services”. More ironic is Dennis Roberson’s involvement as Globalstar’s paid consultant in this proceeding while chairing the Commission’s Technical Advisory Council (TAC)12. In April, the TAC produced an excellent paper entitled “A Quick Introduction to Risk-Informed Interference Assessment” 13. According to the executive summary, “This short paper proposes the use of quantitative risk analysis to assess the harm that may be caused by changes in radio service rules.” In his capacity as a paid consultant to Globalstar Mr. Roberson would have the Commission rely on the fact that TLPS had no “qualitative impact” 14 on Bluetooth, while ignoring the quantitative negative impact proven by the Bluetooth SIG report1.

That feels weird from where I sit, but then again Washington is a place where millionaires claim to be po’ folk and no one bats an eye, a certain Chief Exec never had sex with the woman he had sex with, and pretty much anything goes as long as it’s done “for the children”. I won’t even pretend to know what’s OK with lobbying rules, but Gerst’s point about Mr. Roberson would equal a conflict of interest in my own world, if Mr. Roberson’s committee has any sway in whether TLPS gets accepted (provided Gerst is representing the relationship between Globalstar and Roberson properly).

Like everything regarding TLPS, it will be interesting to see where this all goes.

Are WLAN Vendors Selling Illegal Jammers?

This won’t take long. Jammers are illegal in the US.jammer1Go here for full page.

Marriott got busted for using jamming, as cited on both pages 1 and 2 of the FCC’s Commission Document.

Marriott’s “jamming” used tools like this, which are part of the WLAN system in use by Marriott (and countless other customers with similar systems by multiple WLAN vendors):


Can the average, reasonable person then conclude that what the WLAN industry calls “mitigation” is actually “jamming” as per the FCC?

If so, can the average person also conclude that illegal jamming tools are being being sold by the WLAN industry as part of today’s typical business WLAN system?

I’m not sure what other conclusions can be reached, but I’m no lawyer.

And the latest- from 1/27/15 which seems to confirm. Of course, now we need “commercial” defined.

Look Past Marriott To The Bigger Wi-Fi Issue

I fear that many of my professional WLAN colleagues and industry watchers are wearing blinders when it comes to the Marriott issue. Of course I’m talking about the FCC finding fault with the hotel chain for employing wireless containment measures against customers who would rather use their own Mi-Fi devices than pay for the hotel’s wireless network service, and Marriott’s subsequent request for the FCC’s blessings to continue the activity (which is being studied now). On the surface, it’s hard to be sympathetic to any hotel that charges for Wi-Fi, but this is far from a simple issue, and I’m here to tell you that the time is right for regulatory, technical, and behavioral change. Read on, and I have little doubt that this will likely ruffle at least a few feathers.

The point of this article goes beyond the Marriott buzz, but let’s look at that a just little closer first.

“No hotel should be CHARGING for Wi-Fi anymore! It’s such a ubiquitous expectation, Wi-Fi should be as free as elevator service!” Oh really? According to who- people that do wireless and travel a lot? Why is it OK for airlines to charge for Wi-Fi, but not hotels? When I stay at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, I am PISSED that they charge $4 for a cup of instant coffee and $7 for a package of a few busted up cookies the size of rabbit turds in my room. But they get away with it, and I’m welcome to stay elsewhere if it bothers me that much. The same can be said with the hotel situation- some give Wi-Fi away, and others charge. And yes, often the for-fee WLAN service really sucks. But no one says you MUST stay in these places. There are two sentiments I want you take away here: first, every business has the right to charge whatever they want for any service, and we can take our business elsewhere if we don’t like it. Secondly- I actually agree that it’s bad business for hotels to charge for Wi-Fi, and agree that people just “expect it” by now when it comes to Wi-Fi everywhere. That notion of “just expecting” a service becomes even more important here in a bit, so please keep it handy.

Why did the Marriott do what they did? Why do other business do the same thing?

In the case of Marriott, it seems like they are working different angles- they blocked customer Wi-Fi to herd people over to their expensive in-house service. They did it for the clients’ own good, because it’s pretty easy for anyone to pop up a Pineapple and trick users into falling for bad Wi-Fi juju. But Marriott also blocked clients’ Mi-Fi devices because their WLAN vendor built the capability into the WLAN management tool and the WLAN industry has created a state of mind where using these tools for exactly what Marriott did is acceptable. Except it turns out that it’s not acceptable. Go figure.

“Wi-Fi works in unlicensed spectrum. Everyone can interfere and use their own stuff anywhere they like and your Wi-Fi can just deal with that because the FCC regs say so and if you don’t like that then it’s just tough tittie for you.”

Uh, okay. Sure, Wi-Fi works in unlicensed spectrum. That’s what makes it so inexpensive to buy and deploy- which is great. It’s also what makes issues like Marriott so contentious. And here’s where I implore you to stop focusing on Marriott and look at the bigger WLAN picture. Hospitals are the easy one, because nothing makes a point like a loved one dying. Under current FCC regs and the “Marriott Mentality”, I can bring my Mi-Fi into the hospital and pop it to life regardless of the impact on wireless medical equipment. So can any other visitor with a Mi-Fi; they’re all covered by the same FCC regs. Forget “hospital policy”- Marriott got boned for their own policy, and we’re all covered by the same FCC regs.

More environments are ditching legacy phones and going to the likes of Microsoft Lync with heavy emphasis on WLAN use. In my own environment, I have Wi-Fi door locks, lab monitoring equipment, cameras, event and retail barcode scanners, and a number of other critical or quazi-critical utility devices running on a multi-million dollar WLAN. Those of us USING wireless everyday for both huge client access numbers and an increasingly IOT-feeling compliment of utilities have to look at Marriott and scratch our heads. Are we really that powerless to protect our WLAN investments? I get that others not in the same demographic can easily and smugly say “well, then you shouldn’t be using wireless for all this stuff.” To them I say…yeah,  and you should pull your heads out of wherever they might be inserted and to get with the times. The same FCC that is studying the Marriott thing has had a hand in the explosive growth in business WLAN, where many of us EXPECT (remember, I asked you keep that thought handy) to be able to preserve the performance of our own carefully designed Wi-Fi environments within our own borders.

Why invest in training, surveys, good design, and the best components if at any given time in any of our cells anyone can locally DOS our networks with “legal” hardware?

If you haven’t noticed, we’re collectively at a stupid, unsustainable place.

I’ve gotten that call from the stadium in the middle of the game when several Mi-Fi devices were laying waste to the robust Wi-Fi we have for the press. I’ve seen my own network interfere with Mi-Fi devices used by the Red Cross during blood drives to the point where they needed to use another technology. It happens, especially in dense WLAN environments, and the Mi-Fi makers own a lot of the problem. These devices are heavily marketed by Verizon and AT&T, they fire up out of the box on idiotic channels. People who use Mi-Fi fall in love with the devices, and Mi-Fi becomes their de facto way of connecting their laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc.  For many, it matters not whether there is decent, free wireless designed to meet their needs in a given location- their Mi-Fi is easy, comfortable, and something they own. And there is no technical etiquette training provided with their purchase. 

I’ve heard the claims of “c’mon, Wi-Fi should be resilient enough to tolerate  the occasional Mi-Fi device.”  Perhaps, and it all depends on the environment and the number of these popular devices that show up.

So what’s next? How does this whole mess get reconciled?

Here’s part of the answer, from my friend Jake Snyder:


Right on, Jake. Here’s the whole fix, according to me:

  • Somehow, Mi-Fi needs to be rethought to be friendlier to business WLAN- Let’s start with Novatel explaining why everything has to be on channel 2 or 4 or 9
  • The FCC has to take a nuanced, business friendly approach to protecting prod WLAN environments, or to let environments protect themselves
  • If the FCC says that the tools Marriott used are not legal, then these tools need to be gutted out of WLAN management frameworks and not marketed as features
  • Yes, hotels and other venues need to provide good FREE Wi-Fi, and the WLAN industry needs to come up with a way to provide SECURE guest Wi-Fi (Hotspot 2.0 ain’t going anywhere, sorry)
  • It’s probably too late to put the genie back in the bottle, but Mi-Fi users should get some sort of education at time of purchase about the impact their devices potentially have on WLANs that they operate in the middle of

Marriott is just the tip of the iceberg. If we (all parties) don’t face the underlying factors that have brought us to the point where the FCC is reviewing the current status quo, nothing will get “fixed”.

Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear from you- not just your opinion, but what your role in Wi-Fi is.

Some Gimmicks Get A Lot Further Than They Should

Man oh man, people can come up with really goofy shit sometimes when it comes to technology, wild claims, and the quest for big dollars. Let me give you two examples that will make your head spin a bit, especially if you know anything about wireless networking.

Bizarre Gimmick #1: LightSquared

We don’t really need all those GPS satellites to work, do we? This article I wrote for Network Computing in 2012 tells the tale of technical lunacy that, thankfully, seems to have failed hard. But it’s important to get familiar with LightSquared because the same FCC that let it gain far more traction than common sense dictates it should have is now considering another gazillion-dollar steaming pile of foolishness- which brings us to….

Bizarre Gimmick #2: TLPS (from the fine folks at Globalstar)

Just so all you misguided idiots out there doing WLAN for a living know: 5 GHz isn’t very good for Wi-Fi. The great hope lies with channel 14 in the 2.4 GHz band.

uh, right. Gimme some of what yer tokin’ there, Globalstar.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

I thought Kerrisdale Capital did a pretty good job making the case for why TLPS is a pie-in-the-sky wet dream, and put together a number of good, reasonably accurate summaries on contemporary wireless technology, like this one.

But Globalstar and friends are sticking to the premise that Kerrisdale, wireless experts, and pretty much the entire WLAN industry is clueless. (Hello, black kettle, said the pot.)

How long can Globalstar cling to it’s weird strategy when Wi-Fi industry bigwigs of impeccable credibility like Devin Akin also publicly voice crystal-clear skepticism about TLPS?

We’ll have to see where this one goes. But in a perfect world, the FCC would get a better handle early on when it comes to differentiating viable innovationfrom make-a-few-people-wealthy gimmickry.

The FCC’s Equipment Authorization Search is Captivating (If You’re Into That Sort Of Thing)

Being an amateur radio operator and paperwork originator for a few licensed point-to-point network links, I occasionally find myself in the FCC’s Universal Licensing System (ULS). Trolling around in the ULS can be kinda fun (when you’re really, really bored) if you want to get information on different kinds of valid and expired licenses for everything from public safety to TV stations to IT-related transmitters.

For those of us in the Wi-Fi world, there is another FCC resource that holds a treasure trove of information on every piece of gear ever certified for use in the US. The EAS (Equipment Authorization Search) is your gateway to RF testing reports, internal and external photos of a particular access point, wireless router, etc, and basically the whole “how it came to be” story for each device.

An example- the BlueSocket model 1800v2  access point.

1. Go to the EAS front door.

2. In “Applicant Name” field, enter BlueSocket. (I’ve not had much luck with any of the other fields, even when I have the absolute specific information that should go in them.) You may want to adjust the “show ___ records at a time” field from the default of 10, to something like 50 or 100.

3. Click “Start Search” at bottom of page.

4. You’ll be presented with a table of fairly obvious values- some will be one page, and some will span dozens of pages depending on manufacturer. For BlueSocket, there are only 32 entries and finding my 1800v2 in FCC ID column is pretty easy.

NOTE- Each piece of equipment has Summary or Detail available. Being geeky, we want Detail, as that is where the good stuff is. If multiple entries for same device, pick most current date.

5. You’ll be rewarded with a table of contents like this:

OET Exhibits List
14 Matches found for FCC ID TIH-BSAP1800V2
View Attachment Exhibit Type Date Submitted to FCC Display Type Date Available
Ad Hoc letter Cover Letter(s) 03/17/2010 pdf 03/17/2010
Request for Confidentiality Cover Letter(s) 03/17/2010 pdf 03/17/2010
PoA Cover Letter(s) 03/17/2010 pdf 03/17/2010
External Photos External Photos 03/17/2010 pdf 03/17/2010
Label Location Info ID Label/Location Info 03/17/2010 pdf 03/17/2010
Internal Photos Internal Photos 03/17/2010 pdf 03/17/2010
Monopole MPE 11an RF Exposure Info 03/17/2010 pdf 03/17/2010
MPE PIFA 11an RF Exposure Info 03/17/2010 pdf 03/17/2010
Monopole Test Report Test Report 03/17/2010 pdf 03/17/2010
Monopole Test Report 11an Test Report 03/17/2010 pdf 03/17/2010
PIFA Test Report Test Report 03/17/2010 pdf 03/17/2010
Monopole Test Setup Photos Test Setup Photos 03/17/2010 pdf 03/17/2010
PIFA TEst Setup Photos Test Setup Photos 03/17/2010 pdf 03/17/2010
USer Manual Users Manual 03/17/2010 pdf 03/17/2010

And from there, you can see more than you ever imagined you could care about a wireless device. The Internal Photos and Test Setup Photos tend to be the most interesting, at least to me. Enjoy!