INFO-Cellular Packets 2/2

Adam T. McClure (
Fri, 10 Jun 1994 11:07:48 -0600

>From: (FringeWare Inc)
>Subject: INFOBAHN - George Gilder Essay - Auctioning the Airwaves
>Date: Tue, 31 May 1994 22:08:31 -0500 (CDT)
>levels of less than 10 decibels (millionths of a watt).
> The telescope signals turned out not to be spurious-free. More
>than 90 percent of the receiver noise -- the spurious signals --
>originated in the frequency converter or mixer, which translated the
>75-gigahertz millimeter waves in cascading analog stages of diodes and
>transistors, fed by tunable local oscillators, down to baseband levels
>that could be usefully analyzed. This impelled Steinbrecher's
>obsession with spurious-free dynamic range in mixers.
> To achieve high dynamic range in broadband mixers, Steinbrecher
>discovered, was chiefly a problem of the basic physics of diodes. At
>the University of Florida, at ECI Corp. and at MIT, Steinbrecher had
>pursued studies in device physics focusing on the theory of PIN
>junctions -- the positive-negative interfaces that create the active
>regions in diodes and transistors. How cleanly and abruptly they
>switch from on to off -- how fully these switches avoid transitional
>effects--determines how well they can translate one frequency to
>another without spurs.
> From this experience, Steinbrecher concluded in 1968 that
>receivers could be built with at least a thousand times more dynamic
>range than was currently believed possible. He assigned his student
>Robert Snyder to investigate the issue mathematically, integrating the
>possible performance of each component into the performance of a
>mixer. Snyder's results stunningly continued Steinbrecher's
>hypothesis. They predicted that in principle -- with unlimited time
>and effort -- the linearity and dynamic range of a radio could be
>improved to any arbitrary standard. In a key invention, Steinbrecher
>figured out how to create a diode circuit that could produce a perfect
>square wave, creating a diode with essentially zero switching time.
> Steinbrecher then proceeded to put his theory into practice by
>developing the crucial diode and field-effect transistor arrays,
>mixers, amplifiers and other components necessary to build a working
>system of unparalleled dynamic range. Most of their advances required
>detailed knowledge of the behavior of P/N junctions. To this day, the
>performance of Steinbrecher's equipment depends on adjustment to
>unexpected nonlinearities and noise sources that were discovered as
>part of Robert Snyder's work but are still not integrated into the
>prevailing models of diode behavior.
> Beyond radio astronomy, the people who were interested in
>analyzing signals of unknown frequencies, rather than tuning into
>preset frequencies, were in the field of military intelligence.
>Enemies did not normally announce in advance the frequencies they
>planned to use or how they would modulate them. Steinbrecher Corp.'s
>first major contract came in the early 1980s for remote over-the-horizon
>radar (ROTHR) systems used to detect planes carrying drugs from Latin
>America. Steinbrecher also won contracts to supply MILSTAR satellite
>transceivers and 94-gigahertz "eyes" for smart munitions and jet
> In 1986 these large potential businesses began to attract venture
>capitalists, including EG&G venture partners, The Venture Capital Fund
>of New England and Raytheon. As often happens, the venture
>capitalists sought professional management. They pushed Steinbrecher
>upstairs to chairman and summoned a Stanford EE graduate named Douglas
>Shute to manage the company's move from a manufacturer of hard-sell
>mixers Into a producer of revolutionary digital radios.
> Still, Steinbrecher Corp. long remained a tiny firm occupying a
>dingy one-story building in a Woburn, Mass., industrial park, where it
>rarely pulled in more than $5 million in revenues. Not until the
>early 1990s, when its technology converged with Moore's Law, did the
>company begin to escape its niche.
>Collision With Texas Instruments' DSP
> Indeed, strictly speaking even Moore's Law was not enough to make
>this Pentagon turkey fly. Crucial was Texas Instruments' mid-1980s
>campaign to remake the digital signal processor into a commodity
>device comparable to Intel's microprocessor. Creating development
>systems and software tools, TI transformed the DSP from an exotic and
>expensive printed circuit board full of integrated circuits into a
>single programmable microchip manufactured in volume on the same
>factory floor the company used to produce hundreds of millions of
>dynamic random access memories. The results exceeded all expectations.
>Outpacing Moore's Law by a factor of nearly four for some eight years so
>far, DSP cost-effectiveness began soaring tenfold every two years.
>Pricing the devices for digital radios, Douglas Shute saw that the
>wideband digital radio had "moved onto the map as a commercial
> Also in 1989, a secret contractor asked the company if its radios
>could snoop on calls in the cellular band. After gigahertz
>explorations in radio astronomy and military projects, the 12.5
>megahertz of the cellular bandwidth seemed a piece of cake. Although
>this national security application never came through, the idea
>galvanized the company. If it should need a commercial market,
>cellular telephony was a good bet.
> The pull of opportunity, however, is usually less potent than the
>push of catastrophe -- which is the key reason for socialism's
>failure. Insulating the economy from failure, it also removes a key
>spur for success. For all the bureaucratic rigmarole of military
>procurement, producers for the Pentagon live in a relatively
>comfortable socialist world of cost plus contracts.
> In 1989, however, just before the fall of the Soviet Union,
>Steinbrecher began to get clear signals from Washington that the
>market for his products was about to collapse. MILSTAR remained an
>experimental program; the ROTHR system was halted after the creation
>of just four stations with 1,600 mixers; and suddenly the cellular
>opportunity was not merely an attractive option -- it was crucial for
> When Shute and Steinbrecher viewed the cellular scene in the
>United States, however, they became increasingly disdainful. These
>radio companies had no more idea of what was possible in radio
>technology than had the MIT engineering lab when he arrived in 1961.
>Indeed, Steinbrecher Corp.'s first potential customer -- a wireless
>colossus -- refused even to meet with Shute: The chief technologist
>said he had investigated digital radios several years before and
>determined they were unable to achieve the requisite dynamic range.
>Moreover, at scores of thousands of dollars apiece, digital signal
>processors were far too expensive. Most cellular executives, along
>with their Washington regulators, seemed stuck in a 1970s time warp
>when analog still ruled and DSP was a supercomputer.
>Importing Obsolescence
> As a result, the entire industry was convulsed by what Shute and
>Steinbrecher saw as a retrograde war over standards. Because Europe
>in general lagged far behind the United States in adopting analog
>cellular technology, the EEC had sponsored a multinational drive to
>leapfrog the United States by adopting a digital standard, which could
>then be exported to America. The standard they chose was called GSM
>(global services mobile), a time-division multiple-access (TDMA)
>scheme that exceeded analog capacity by breaking each channel into
>three digital time slots. Racing to catch up, the American industry
>adopted a similar TDMA approach that also increased the current
>system's capacity by a factor of three. With McCaw Cellular in the
>lead, American firms quickly committed themselves to deploy TDMA as
>soon as possible.
> Then in 1991, Qualcomm unleashed a bombshell Exploiting the
>increasing power of DSPs to process digital codes, the company
>demonstrated a spread-spectrum, code-division multiple-access (CDMA)
>modulation scheme that not only increased capacity some twentyfold
>over analog but also allowed use of the entire 11.5 megahertz of the
>cellular bandwidth in every cell. To prevent interference between
>adjoining cells, analog and TDMA systems could use a frequency in only
>one cell out of seven.
> Much of the industry seemed paralyzed by fear of choosing the
>wrong system. To Shute and Steinbrecher, however, these fears seemed
>entirely reckless. Using wideband digital radios, companies could
>accommodate any array of frequencies and modulation schemes they
>desired TDMA, CDMA, voice, data and eventually even video. Shute
>resolved to adapt Steinbrecher's advanced radio technology to these
>new markets. In mid-1991, Shute rushed ahead with a program to create
>a prototype cellular transceiver that could process all 12.5 megahertz
>of the cellular bandwidth and convert it to a digital bit stream.
> The first major customer for the radios turned out to be
>ADC-Kentrox, a designer of analog cell extenders designed to overcome
>"dead zones" caused by large buildings in urban areas. This system
>was limited in reach to the few hundred meters the signals could be
>sent over analog wires without deterioration. By converting the
>signals to digital at the remote site, the Steinbrecher radio extended
>this distance from hundreds of meters to scores of kilometers and
>allowed the price of the product to remain at $100,000.
> But these gains concealed the potential impact and meaning of the
>Steinbrecher technology. Once again, the Steinbrecher radios are
>being used to complement the existing system rather than overthrow it.
>In a similar way, McCaw plans to buy some $30 million worth of
>Steinbrecher machines to carry through its cellular digital packet
>data (CDPD) network. To be provided to 95 percent of McCaw's regions
>by the end of 1995, CDPD is a data overlay of the existing cellular
>system, which allows users of the current analog system to send
>digital data at a rate of 19.2 kilobits per second, compared to the
>9.6-kilobit-per-second rate offered by most modems over twisted-pair
> The Steinbrecher radio can survey any existing swath of spectrum
>in real time and determine almost instantly which channels are in use
>and which are free. It is this capability that convinced McCaw to buy
>Steinbrecher data cells despite the commitment of McCaw's putative
>owner, AT&T, to sell narrowband units made by Cirrus Logics'
>subsidiary Pacific Communications Sciences Inc. (PCSI), which have to
>scan through channels one at a time. McCaw is using the Steinbrecher
>radios as sniffers that constantly survey the cellular band and direct
>data bursts to those channels that are not being used at a particular
> Indeed, the immediate needs of the marketplace alone justify the
>adoption of Steinbrecher data cells. With modems and antennas
>increasingly available and even moving sometime next year to PCMCIA
>slots the size of a credit card, demand for wireless data is likely to
> PCSI is now shipping a quintuple-threat communicator that fits
>into the floppy bay of an advanced IBM ThinkPad notebook or an Apple
>PowerBook, enabling them to send and receive faxes, make wireless or
>wire-line phone calls, dispatch data files across the existing
>cellular network or send CDPD packets at 19.2 kilobits per second.
>Speech recognition capabilities from IBM and Dragon Systems will come
>next year to personal digital assistants, permitting them to read or
>receive E-mail by voice. Although the first Newtons and Zoomers have
>disappointed their sponsors, the market will ignite over the next two
>years as vendors adopt the essential form factor of a digital cellular
>phone with computer functions rather than providing a kluge computer
>with a vaporware phone.
> Nonetheless, McCaw has more on its mind with Steinbrecher than
>merely gaining a second source for CDPD sniffers. By simultaneously
>purchasing some 10 percent of the company and putting chief technical
>officer Nicholas Kauser on the Steinbrecher board, McCaw is signaling
>not a tactical move but a major strategic thrust. The Steinbrecher
>rollout in fact represents McCaw's stealth deployment of broadband
>digital capability.
> Today the rival CDPD equipment from PCSI, Hughes and AT&T all can
>be made to perform CDPD communications as an overlay to the existing
>cellular phone system. However, only the Steinbrecher systems can be
>upgraded to perform all of the functions of a base station and more,
>for voice, data and video. Only Steinbrecher allows the replacement
>of 416 radio transceivers, one for each channel, with one broadband
>radio and some digital signal processing chips. Only Steinbrecher can
>replace a $1.5 million, 1,000 square foot cellular base station with
>a box the size of a briefcase costing some $100,000 but, thanks to
>Moore's Law, racing toward $10,000.
> It remains to be seen only whether McCaw will have the guts to
>follow through on this initiative by completely rebuilding its network
>to accommodate the wideband radio being installed at its heart.
>Self-cannibalization is the rule of success in information technology.
>Intel and Microsoft, for example, lead the way in constantly attacking
>their own products. But this mode of life is deeply alien to the
>telephone business -- even an entrepreneurial outfit like McCaw.
> With new software and a simple upgrade to a MiniCell, the
>Steinbrecher DataCell will allow the McCaw system to handle all
>modulation schemes simultaneously -- AMPS, TDMA, CDMA and future
>methods such as Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access --
>obviating the need for hybrid phones. The multiprotocol and aerobatic
>capabilities of broadband digital radios could enable McCaw to roll
>out a cornucopia of PCS services -- for everything from monitoring
>vending machines or remote power stations to tracking tracks and
>packages, and linking laptops and PDAs -- while the rest of the
>industry is still paralyzed by wrangles over incumbent users,
>regulatory procedures, frequency access and radio standards.
> Making channel sizes a variable rather than a fixed function of
>radios, Steinbrecher systems offer the possibility of bandwidth on
>demand. They could open up the entire spectrum as one gigantic
>broadband pipe into which we would be able to insert packets in any
>empty space -- dark fiber in the air.
>So Stop The Auction
> So what does this have to do with the impending spectrum auction?
>Almost everything. Strictly speaking, the FCC is leasing 10 year
>exclusive rights to radiate electromagnetic waves at certain
>frequencies to deliver PCS. This entire auction concept is tied to
>thousands of exclusive frequency licenses. It has no place for
>broadband radios that treat all frequencies alike and offer bandwidth
>on demand. It has no place for modulation schemes that do not need
>exclusive spectrum space. Continuing to use interference standards
>based on analog transmissions that are affected by every passing spray
>of radiation, FCC rules fail to grasp the far more robust nature of
>digital on-off codes with error correction. By the time the FCC gets
>around to selling its 1,500 shards of air, the air will have been
>radically changed by new technology.
> The FCC is fostering a real estate paradigm for the spectrum.
>You buy or lease spectrum as you would a spread of land. Once you
>have your license, you can use it any way you want as long as you
>don't unduly disturb the neighbors. You rent a stretch of beach and
>build a wall.
> The Steinbrecher system, by contrast, suggests a model not of a
>beach but of an ocean. You can no more lease electromagnetic waves
>than you can lease ocean waves. Enabled by new technology, this new
>model is suitable for an information superhighway in the sky. You can
>use the spectrum as much as you want as long as you don't collide with
>anyone else or pollute it with high-powered noise or other nuisances.
> In the Steinbrecher model, you employ the spectrum as you use any
>public right of way. You are responsible for keeping your eyes open
>and avoiding others. You cannot just buy a 10 year lease and then
>barge blindly all over the air in a high-powered vessel, depending on
>the government to keep everyone else off your territory and out of
>your way. The spectrum is no longer dark. The Steinbrecher broadband
>radio supplies you with lights as you travel the information
>superhighway. You can see other travelers and avoid them.
> Even if Steinbrecher radios did not exist, however, the
>assumptions of the auction are collapsing in the face of innovations
>by Qualcomm and other spread-spectrum companies. Like Steinbrecher
>radios, CDMA modulation schemes allow you to use spectrum without
>interfering with others. To auditors without the code, calls seem
>indistinguishable from noise. But radios with the code can dig up
>signals from under the noise floor. Up to the point of traffic
>congestion where the quality of the signal begins to degrade
>gracefully, numerous users can employ the same frequencies at the same
> This property of CDMA has been tested in Qualcomm's CDMA
>Omnitracs position locator and two-way communications system. Mainly
>used by trucking companies, it is now being extended to cars, boats,
>trains and other mobile equipment. Based on geosynchronous
>satellites, it operates all across the country, with some 60,000
>units, under a secondary license that forbids Qualcomm to interfere
>with the primary license-holders of the same frequencies. Qualcomm's
>transceivers on the tops of trucks use a small antenna that issues a
>beam six to 10 degrees in width. Because satellites are just two
>degrees apart, the Qualcomm beam can blanket several satellites.
>Other users, however, are entirely unconscious of the presence of the
>CDMA signal. Omnitracs has operated for some six years and has not
>interfered with anyone yet.
>No More Blind Drivers On The Information Superhighway
> With an increasing array of low-interference technologies
>available, the FCC should not give exclusive rights to anyone.
>Instead, it should impose a heavy burden of proof on any service
>providers with blind or high-powered systems that maintain that they
>cannot operate without an exclusive license, that want to build on the
>beach and keep everyone else out of the surf. In particular, the FCC
>should make all the proponents of TDMA, whether in the American or
>European GSM systems, explain why the government should wall off
>spectrum. The wireless systems of the future will offer bandwidth on
>demand and send their packets wherever there is room.
> At the same time that new technologies make hash of the need to
>auction off exclusive licenses, Qualcomm and Steinbrecher also
>radically attack the very notion of spectrum scarcity on which the
>auction is based. Steinbrecher's radio makes it possible to
>manufacture new spectrum nearly at will. By putting one of his
>MiniCells on every telephone pole and down every alley and in every
>elevator shaft, the cellular industry can exponentially multiply the
>total number of calls it can handle. At some $100,000 apiece and
>dropping in price, these MiniCells can operate at 900 megahertz or six
>gigahertz just as well as at the two-gigahertz range being auctioned
>by the government. It is as if Reed Hundt is auctioning off
>beachfront property, with a long list of codicils and regulations and
>restrictive covenants, while the tide pours in around him and creates
>new surf everywhere.
> Still more important in view of the coming auction, the wideband
>capability of the Steinbrecher radio joins CDMA in allowing the use of
>huge spans of spectrum that are ostensibly occupied by other users.
>The Steinbrecher radio can survey the gigahertz reserves of the
>military and intelligence services, UHF television and microwave, and
>direct usage to the many fallow regions. For example, the prime
>territory between 225 megahertz and 400 megahertz, consisting of some
>3,0130 25-kilohertz channels, is entirely occupied by government and
>air force communications. But most of the channels are largely
>unused. A Steinbrecher radio could sit on those frequencies and
>direct calls to empty slots.
> An ideal system would combine Steinbrecher broadband machines
>with Qualcomm's modulation schemes. Steinbrecher supplies the lights
>and eyes to find space in already licensed spectrum bands; CDMA allows
>the noninvasive entry Into spans of spectrum that are in active use.
> Meanwhile, the Steinbrecher system changes the very nature of
>spectrum "ownership" or rental. Unrestricted to a single band or
>range of frequencies, Steinbrecher radios can reach from the kilohertz
>to the high gigahertz and go to any unoccupied territory. As
>Steinbrecher radios become the dominant technology, the notion of
>spectrum assignments allotted in 2,500 specific shards becomes a
>technological absurdity.
> Wall Street is beginning to catch on. When Steinbrecher
>announced in January a private placement through Alex. Brown, the
>company wanted to raise some $20 million. The response was
>overwhelming, and hundreds of frustrated Investors were left wringing
>their hands as the new radio left the station. The sole
>proprietorship of the mid-1980s with revenues of $5 million or less
>was moving into sleek new headquarters off Route 198 in Burlington.
>Steinbrecher Corp. was becoming yet another of the Moore's Law
> Meanwhile, the issue for Washington emerges starkly. Do we want
>a strategy for MiniCells or for Minitels?
> #####
>Steven C. Blair
>dell computer corp
>[ ] Unless this box is signed with an X I don't speak for my keepers....
>Jon Lebkowsky CEO, FringeWare, Inc. Editor, Fringe Ware Review #5
>PO Box 49921 Austin TX 78765 <512> 444-2693 Now taking submissions

When philosophy has grown beyond science, * --Adam T. McClure
it is time to create a new science. *
* Colorado Center for
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is * Astrodynamics Research
indistinguishable from magic." (Arthur C. Clarke.) *