INFO-Cellular Packets 1/2

Adam T. McClure (
Fri, 10 Jun 1994 11:11:38 -0600

Poster's Note: Bear with the scenario and the grim FCC warnings and you'll find
the jewel at the center. :) Again, I hope you find it
appropriate material. Thank You.

>From: (FringeWare Inc)
>Subject: INFOBAHN - George Gilder Essay - Auctioning the Airwaves
>Date: Tue, 31 May 1994 22:08:31 -0500 (CDT)
>Subject: George Gilder's Seventh Article - Auctioning The Airwaves
>This series of articles by George Gilder provides some interesting
>technological and cultural background that helps prepare readers to
>better understand and place in proper perspective the events relative
>to the National Data Super Highway, which are unfolding almost daily in
>the national press. I contacted the author and Forbes and as the
>preface below indicates obtained permission to post on the Internet.
>Please note that the preface must be included when cross posting or
>uploading this article.
>The following article, AUCTIONING THE AIRWAVES, was first published in
>Forbes ASAP, April 11, 1994. It is the seventh article in a series
>excerpted from chapters in George Gilder's book, Telecosm, which will
>be published 1995 by Simon & Schuster, as a sequel to Microcosm,
>published in 1989 and Life After Television, published by Norton in
>1992. Further chapters of Telecosm are scheduled to be published in
>future issues of Forbes ASAP.
>Please post Auctioning The Airwaves to any Usenet newsgroups deemed
> BY
> Imagine it is 1971 and you are chair of the new Federal Computer
>Commission. This commission has been established to regulate the
>natural monopoly of computer technology as summed up in the famous
>Grosch's Law. In 1956 IBM engineer Herbert Grosch proved that
>computer power rises by the square of its cost and thus necessarily
>gravitates to the most costly machines. According to a famous IBM
>projection, the entire world could use some 55 mainframes,
>time-sharing from dumb terminals and keypunch machines. The owners of
>these machines would rule the world of information in an ascendant
>information age. By the Orwellian dawn of 1984, Big Bre'r IBM would
>establish a new digital tyranny, with a new elite of the data-rich
>dominating the data-poor.
> As head of the computer commission, you launch a bold program to
>forestall this grim outcome. Under a congressional mandate to promote
>competition for IBM and ensure the principle of universal computer
>service, you ordain the creation of some 2,500 mainframe licenses to
>be auctioned to the highest bidders (with special licenses reserved
>for minorities, women and farmers). To ensure widespread competition
>across all of America, you establish seven licenses in each
>metropolitan Major Trading Area and seven in every rural Basic Trading
>Area as defined by Rand McNally. To guarantee universal service, you
>mandate the free distribution of keypunch machines to all businesses
>and households so that they can access the local computer centers.
> In establishing this auction in 1971, you had no reason at all to
>notice that a tiny company in Mountain View, Calif., called Intel was
>about to announce three new technologies together with some hype about
>"a new era of integrated electronics." After all, these technologies
>-- the microprocessor; erasable, programmable read-only memory
>(EPROM); and a one-kilobit dynamic random access memory (DRAM) -- were
>far too primitive to even compare with IBM's massive machines.
> The likely results of such a Federal Computer Commission policy
>are not merely matters of conjecture. France pretty much did it when
>it distributed free Minitel terminals to its citizens to provide them
>access to government mainframes. While the United States made
>personal computers nearly ubiquitous buying perhaps 100 million since
>the launch of the Minitel in the late 1970s the French chatted through
>central databases and ended up with one-quarter as many computers per
>capita as this country, and one-tenth the number of computer networks.
>Today, PC networks are leading the US economy to world dominance while
>Europe founders without a single major computer company, software firm
>or semiconductor manufacturer.
> IT IS NOW 1994, and Reed Hundt, the new chairman of the Federal
>Communications Commission, is indeed about to hold an auction.
> Rather than selling exclusive mainframe licenses, the current FCC
>is going to sell exclusive ten-year licenses to about 2,500 shards of
>the radio spectrum. Meanwhile, a tiny company called Steinbrecher
>Corp. of Burlington, Mass., is introducing the new microprocessor of
>the radio business.
> In the world of radio waves ruled by the Federal Communications
>Commission, the Steinbrecher MiniCell is even more revolutionary than the
>microprocessor was in the world of computing. While Intel put an entire
>computer on a single chip, Steinbrecher has put an entire cellular base
>station -- now requiring some 1,000 square feet and costing $1.5 million
>-- in a box the size of a briefcase that costs $100,000 today. Based on
>a unique invention by Donald Steinbrecher and on the sweeping advance of
>computer technology, the MiniCell represents a far bigger leap forward
>beyond the current state of the art than the microprocessor did. What's
>more, this MiniCell is in fact much superior to existing cellular base
>stations. Unlike the 416 hard-wired radio transceivers
>(transmitter-receivers) in existing base stations, the MiniCell contains
>a single digital broadband radio and is fully programmable. It can
>accommodate scores of different kind of cellular handsets.
> Most important, the MiniCell benefits from the same technology as
>the microprocessor. Making possible the creation of this broadband
>digital radio is the tidal onrush of Moore's Law. In an antithesis of
>Grosch's Law, Gordon Moore of Intel showed that the cost-effectiveness
>of microchip technology doubles every 18 months. This insight
>suggested the Law of the Microcosm -- that computing power gravitates
>not to the costliest but to the cheapest machines. Costing $100,000
>today, the MiniCell will predictably cost some $10,000 before the turn
>of the century.
> In time, these digital MiniCells will have an impact similar to
>that of the PC. They will drive the creation of a cornucopia of new
>mobile services -- from plain old telephony to wireless video
>conferencing -- based on ubiquitous client/server networks in the air.
>Endowing Americans with universal mobile access to information
>superhighways, these MiniCells can spearhead another generation of
>computer-led growth in the US economy. Eventually, the implications
>of Steinbrecher's machines and other major innovations in wireless
>will crash In on the legalistic scene of the FCC.
> And that's only the beginning of the story.
> Going on the block in May will be 160 megahertz (millions of
>cycles per second) of the radio frequency spectrum, divided into seven
>sections of between 10 and 30 megahertz In each of 543 areas of the
>country, and devoted to enhanced Personal Communications Services
> Existing cellular systems operate in a total spectrum space of 50
>megahertz in two frequency bands near the 800 megahertz level. By
>contrast, PCS will take four times that space in a frequency band near
>two gigahertz (billions of cycles per second). Became higher
>frequencies allow use of lower-power radios with smaller antennas and
>longer-lasting batteries, PCS offers the possibility of a drastically
>improved wireless system. Unfortunately, the major obstacle to the
>promise of PCS is the auction.
> Amid the spectrum fever aroused by the bidding, however, new
>radio technologies are emerging that devastate its most basic
>assumptions. At a time when the world is about to take to information
>superhighways In the sky -- plied by low-powered, pollution-free
>computer phones -- the FCC is in danger of building a legal
>infrastructure and protectionist program for information smokestacks
>and gas guzzlers.
> Even the language used to describe the auction betrays its
>fallacies. With real estate imagery, analysts depict spectrum as
>"beachfront property" and the auction as a "land rash." They assume
>that radio frequencies are like analog telephone circuit: no two users
>can occupy the same spot of spectrum at the same time. Whether large
>50-kilowatt broadcast stations booming Rush Limbaugh's voice across
>the nation or milliwatt cellular phones beaming love murmurs to a
>nearby base station, radio transmitters are assumed to be infectious,
>high-powered and blind. If one is on the highway, everyone else has
>to clear out. Both the prevailing wisdom and the entrenched
>technology dictate that every transmitter be quarantined in its own
>spectrum slot.
> However, innovations from such companies as Steinbrecher and
>Qualcomm Inc. of San Diego overthrow this paradigm. Not only can
>numerous radios operate at non-interfering levels in the same
>frequency band, they can also see other users' signals and move to
>avoid them. In baseball jargon, the new radios can hit 'em where they
>ain't; in football idiom, they run for daylight. If appropriately
>handled, these technologies can render spectrum not scarce but
> These developments make it retrograde to assign exclusive
>spectrum rights to anyone or to foster technologies that require
>exclusivity. Spectrum no longer shares any features of beachfront
>property. A wave would be a better analogy.
>The New Rules Of Waves
> In the early decades of this century, radio was king. Electronics
>hackers played in the waves with a variety of ham, citizens band and
>short-wave machines.
> Experimenting with crystal sets, they innocently entered the
>domain of solid-state devices and acquired some of the skills that
>fueled the electronic revolution in the United States and the radar
>revolution that won World War II. The first point-contact transistor,
>created by John Bardeen and Walter Brattain at Bell Labs in 1948,
>functioned like a crystal radio. The first major solid-state product
>was a 1954 Texas Instruments pocket radio with six germanium
> Over the following decades, the radio became a mass commodity.
>There are now some 230 million radios in the United States alone, not
>even including more than 16 million cellular phones (which are in fact
>portable two-way radios). Radios roll off Asian assembly lines at a
>rate that might be meaningfully measured in hertz (cycles per second),
>and they come in sizes fit for pockets, belts, watches and ears. But
>the romance of radio has died and given way to the romance of
> Today it is PC technology that engages the youthful energies
>previously invested in radio technology. The press trumpets a coming
>convergence between computers and TVs and games and films. But no one
>talks much about radios. For many years, we have been taking radios
>for granted.
> As the foundation of wireless communications, however, radio --
>no less than TV or films -- will burst into a new technoscape as a
>result of a convergence with computers. The hackers of the '50s and
>'60s are joining forces with the hackers of the '80s and '90s to
>create a new industry. Moore's Law is about to overran the world of
> You double anything every 18 months and pretty soon you find
>yourself with a monster. During the 1970s and 1980s, Moore's Law
>overturned the established order in the computer industry and spawned
>some 100 million personal computers that are as powerful as
>million-dollar mainframes were when the revolution began. In the
>current decade, Moore's Law is upending the telephone and television
>industries with interactive teleputers that will be able to send,
>receive, shape and store interactive full-motion video. And during
>the next five years, Moore's Law is going to transform exotic and
>costly radio equipment once consigned to the military and outer space
>into the basic communications access routes for the new world economy.
> To understand this new world of radio, however, you must forget
>much of what you learned about the old world of radio. For example,
>these new radios differ radically from the radios of the past in the
>way they use spectrum, the way they interfere with one another and the
>way they are built.
> For some 15 years, a hacker of the 1950s named Don Steinbrecher
>and a small group of students and associates have been making the
>world's most powerful and aerobatic radios. Steinbrecher radio gear
>can soar to spectrum altitudes as high as 94 gigahertz to provide
>radar "eyes" for smart bombs and pies, plunge down to the cellular
>band at 800 megahertz to listen in on phone calls or drop discretely
>to 30 megahertz -- waves that bounce off the ionosphere -- for remote
>over-the-horizon radar work identifying cocaine traffickers flying in
>low from Latin America. At the same time, some of these radios may
>soon command enough dynamic ranges of accurate broadband reception --
>rumored to be as high as 120 decibels (one trillion-to-one) -- to
>detect a pin drop at a heavy-metal rock concert without missing a
>high-fidelity note or twang.
> Like every radio transceiver, a Steinbrecher radio must have four
>key components: an antenna, a tuner, a modem and a mixer. The antenna
>part is easy; for many purposes, your metal shirt hanger will do the
>trick (backyard wire fences collect millions of frequencies). But
>without tuners, modems and mixers, nothing reaches its final
>destination -- the human ear.
> A tuner selects a desired carrier frequency, usually by
>exploiting the science of resonant circuits. A modem is a
>modulator-demodulator. In transmitting it applies information to the
>carrier frequency by wiggling the waves in a pattern, called a
>modulation scheme, such as AM or FM. In receiving the modem strips
>out (demodulates) the information from the carrier wave.
> The key to Steinbrecher radios is the broadband mixer. It
>surmounts what was long seen as an impossible challenge: moving a
>large array of the relatively high career frequencies on the antenna
>down to a so-called baseband level where they can be used without
>losing any of the information or adding spurious information in the
>process. Compared to FM carrier frequencies of 100 megahertz or even
>PCS frequencies of two gigahertz, baseband audio frequencies run
>between 20 hertz and 20 kilohertz.
> Mixers were the basic Steinbrecher product, and in 1978 and 1980,
>Steinbrecher acquired patents on a unique broadband mixer with high
>range and sensitivity called the Paramixer. Even to its expected
>military customers, the Paramixer was a hard sell because other radio
>components were unable to keep pace with its performance. Today,
>however, the Paramixer is the foundation of the Steinbrecher radio in
>the MiniCell.
> In the old world of radio, transceivers integrated all of these
>components -- antenna, tuner, modem and mixer -- into one analog
>hardware system. Because the radio is analog and hard-wired, its
>functions must be standardized. Each radio can receive or transmit
>only a very limited set of frequencies bearing information coded in a
>specific modulation scheme and exclusively occupying a specific
>spectrum space at a particular power range. If you are in the radio
>business -- whether as an equipment manufacturer such as Motorola or
>Ericsson, a provider of services, such as McCaw or Comsat, or a
>broadcaster, such as NBC or Turner -- you care deeply about these
>hard-wired specifications, frequencies and modulation schemes.
> Comprising the "air standard," these issues embroil businesses,
>politicians, standards bodies and regulators in constant warfare. For
>everything from High Definition Television to digital cellular and
>cordless telephony, standards bodies are wrangling over frequencies
>and modulation schemes.
>How Digital Radios Can End The Spectrum Wars
> To the people at Steinbrecher Corp., all these wrangles seem
>utterly unnecessary. With antennas, tuners, modems and mixers,
>wideband digital radios perform all the same functions as ordinary
>radios. Only the antenna and mixer are in hardware, and these are
>generic; they don't care any more about air standards than your shirt
>hanger does.
> In Steinbrecher radios, all of the frequency tuning, all of the
>modulating and demodulating, all of the channelization, all of the
>coding and decoding that so embroil the politicians are performed by
>programmable digital signal processors and can be changed at a base
>station in real time. Strictly speaking, the tuner and modem are not
>part of the base station radio at all. The broadband radio in a
>Steinbrecher base station can send or receive signals to or from any
>handset or mobile unit operating within its bandwidth (in current
>cellular systems the full 12.5 megahertz of the band; in PCS, still
>larger bands of as much as 30 megahertz).
> All the processing of codes, frequencies, channels and
>modulations, as well as all special mobile services, can move onto
>computers attached to the network. Steinbrecher technology thus can
>open up the spectrum for open and programmable client/server systems
>like those that now dominate the computer industry. Moore's Law, in
>fact, is changing radios into portable digital computers. The most
>pervasive personal computer of the next decade will be a digital
>cellular phone operating at least 40 MIPS (millions of instructions
>per second).
> Today the performance of analog-to-digital converters defines the
>limits of Steinbrecher radios. Even if the mixers are perfect, the
>system's performance can be no better than the accuracy of the A/D
>processors that transform the output of the mixers into a digital bit
>stream for the DSPs. Steinbrecher estimates that better broadband A/D
>converters -- which can sample wave forms more accurately at high
>frequencies -- could increase the performance of Steinbrecher systems
>by an amazing factor of 10. Pushed by demands and designs from
>Steinbrecher, Analog Devices and other suppliers are advancing
>converter technology nearly at a pace with Moore's Law, and
>Steinbrecher's broadband digital radios are rapidly approaching the
> As Don Steinbrecher puts it, broadband A/D and DSP have changed
>wireless "turn a radio business to a computer business." At first,
>the computer portion of a broadband radio was very expensive. Until
>the early 1980s, military customers performed advanced broadband
>analog-to-digital conversion and digital signal processing on
>million-dollar custom supercomputers. In 1986, an advanced DSP system
>for graphics at Bell Labs entailed the use of 82 AT&T DSP32 chips and
>supporting devices in a custom computer that cost some $130,000.
>Today, these same functions are performed on an Apple Quadra 840 AV
>using an AT&T 3210 running at 33 megaflops (million floating-point
>operations per second) and 17 MIPS for under $20 in volume. This
>rising tide of advances in digital technology, propelled by Moore's
>Law, is about to sweep Steinbrecher's recondite radio company into the
>midst of a mass market in cellular telephony.
> And the entire cellular and PCS industries will be beating a path
>to Steinbrecher's door. Just as millions of people today have learned
>the meaning of MIPS and megabytes, millions of people around the
>world, believe it or not, are going to come to understand the meaning
>of "spurious-free dynamic range."
> As a very rough analogy, imagine cranking the volume of your
>radio as high as possible without marring the desired signal with
>static and distortion. The spurious-free dynamic range of your radio
>would measure the distance between the lowest and the highest volumes
>with a clear signal. In more technical terms, spurious-free dynamic
>range is defined as the range of signal amplitudes that can
>simultaneously be processed without distortion or be resolved by a
>receiver without the emergence of spurious signals above the noise
> In building broadband radios with high dynamic range, however,
>Steinbrecher faced a fundamental technical problem. As a general
>rule, bandwidth is inversely proportional to dynamic range. You can
>have one or the other, but you can't have both. The broader the band,
>the more difficult it is to capture all of its contents with full
>accuracy and sensitivity or with full spurious-free dynamic range. An
>ordinary radio may command a high dynamic range of volumes because it
>is narrowband.
> But Steinbrecher radio does not begin by tuning to one frequency
>alone; it gasps every frequency in a particular swath of spectrum. In
>some extreme Paramixer applications (94-gigahertz radar, for example),
>the bandwidth could be 10 gigahertz -- larger than the entire range of
>spectrum commonly used in the air, from submarine communications at 60
>hertz to C band satellite at 6 gigahertz.
> In most Steinbrecher applications that require high dynamic
>range, however, the bandwidth runs between a few megahertz and
>hundreds of megahertz (compared to 30 kilohertz in a cellular phone).
>Unless all of the frequencies captured by the broadband radio are
>really present in the band rather than as artifacts of the equipment
> -- in technical jargon, unless the signals are spurious-free -- the
>radio user cannot tell what is going on, cannot distinguish between
>spurs and signals.
> Steinbrecher has devoted much of his career to the graft of
>spurious-free dynamic range. Soon after he arrived at Massachusetts
>Institute of Technology in September 1961 to pursue work on device
>physics, he moved into the school's new Radio Astronomy Lab. The
>radio astronomers were using millimeter waves at 75 gigahertz to probe
>remote galaxies and pour through evidence of a big bang at the
>beginning of time. Because the return reflections from outer space
>were infinitesimal, the radio telescopes had to command a bandwidth of
>at least two gigahertz, a spurious-free dynamic range of more than 100
>decibels (tens of billions-, or even trillions-to-one) and noise

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.) *