Spectrum debate turns again to receivers

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The issue of spectrum use has been broadened to increasingly include the issue of receiver efficiency, panelists and lawmakers noted during a Nov. 29 hearing of the House and Energy subcommittee on communications and technology.

The Federal Communications Commission has focused on transmitters rather than receivers, acknowledged Ron Repasi, FCC deputy chief of the office of engineering and technology.

"The performance of receivers has generally been left to the marketplace. Receivers are expected to operate within the same parameters as their associated transmitters," he said, adding "that's not always the case."

Receiver efficiency was a central issue in a bid by would-be broadband wireless network provider LightSquared, whose bid for a license the FCC rejected following testing demonstrating that the company's plan would cause interference problems with many Global Positioning System receivers.

Rep. Ron Wyden (R-Ore.) said LightSquared is hardly the only company to have encountered that problem. "The issue is starting to recur more frequently," he said.

Wyden decried the difficulty the FCC must face in either letting spectrum law fallow for the purposes of establishing guard bands to ensure existing user devices aren't interfered with or not permitting the number of spectrum users to grow by licensing that guard band spectrum.

However, Wyden was skeptical during the hearing of a regulatory approach that would apply FCC Standards to receivers, saying it could slow innovation and increase costs.

In 2003, the FCC issued a notice of inquiry that could have led to widespread receiver interference protection standards, but abandoned it in 2007. However, the FCC technological advisory council is now developing a report on the issue; one possible approach would be to define what signal interference levels would be tolerable. A licensee would need to demonstrate that it is experiencing signal levels above the limit in order to make a claim of harmful interference, Repasi said.

For more:
- go to the hearing webpage (prepared testimonies and archived webcast available)

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