Mobile telephone service providers are trying to block a plan to create a free, nationwide wireless broadband network by insisting on protections from interference that would make it impossible to deliver wireless broadband, according to the company proposing the network.
Mobile carriers, led by T-Mobile, are insisting on interference protections for their existing spectrum that goes beyond any current protections and would disqualify several widely used products that currently emit low levels of energy in the radio spectrum, including microwave ovens and Wi-Fi equipment, said officials with M2Z Networks, a startup that proposed building a free wireless network on unused spectrum.
[ Your source for the latest in government IT news and issues: Subscribe to InfoWorld's Government IT newsletter. ]
The two sides are now arguing about the interference questions before the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, which has released its own proposal to auction spectrum for a free, nationwide network. Mobile carriers don't want a free broadband network that would compete with their own services, John Muleta, M2Z's CEO, said at a Monday press briefing previewing an M2Z filing to the FCC.
Some of the devices that would essentially be prohibited under the interference rules that T-Mobile and other mobile carriers want are devices the carriers themselves sell, Muleta said. If a T-Mobile handset operates at -105 dBm (the ratio of power in decibels to one milliwatt) signal strength, then Wi-Fi equipment and Bluetooth headsets sold by the carriers themselves would interfere, Muleta said. But that's the level of protection T-Mobile wants.
"If you do -105 [dBm], then all these devices are going to start interfering," said Muleta, a former chief of the FCC's wireless telecommunications bureau. "How does that make sense? It doesn't."
The interference protections T-Mobile and other carriers have proposed go beyond the operating capabilities of T-Mobile's mobile phones, added Paul Kolodzy, senior tech advisor to M2Z and a former senior spectrum policy advisor at the FCC. At a -100 dBm signal strength, a T-Mobile handset would drop calls, he said.
A representative of T-Mobile, which provides mobile service in the nearby spectrum, called M2Z's conclusions inaccurate. Microwave ovens and Bluetooth receivers operate on spectrum 100MHz to 200MHz away from T-Mobile's spectrum, while the proposed broadband network would operate in adjacent spectrum, said Patrick Welsh, senior corporate counsel for regulatory affairs at T-Mobile.
"It's complete apples to oranges," he said. "It demonstrates a complete lack of technical knowledge and expertise in this."
In addition, more than five percent of T-Mobile's traffic operates at or below a -105 dBm signal strength, Welsh said. And a T-Mobile proposal to the FCC that would pair the so-called AWS-3 spectrum in the FCC's proposal with another block of spectrum would allow the winning bidder to offer broadband service, he said.
Test results in Seattle earlier this month "clearly showed that there would be significant harmful interference ... under the FCC's proposed rules," Welsh added. "M2Z's wildly inaccurate conclusions can only reflect that either they do not understand the test results or they are being disingenuous."