The comments congratulate FCC on its thorough report to improve its procedures and advocated some clarifications and extensions of the recommendations.
Here is a summary of the points made:
- The comments strongly supported the new promise to act in a timely way on petitions but pointed out that this is already a longstanding, but generally ignored, requirement of §1.403. Timely disposition of petitions is key to capital formation for wireless systems that need nonroutine approvals.
- The report recommended grouping questions at the end of NPRMs. The comments suggested the key issues were to group the questions, limit the number to a manageable amount, and actually number them. The report gave examples from Industry Canada and Ofcom “consultations” where a modest number of questions were grouped and numbered.
- The report suggested “continue to engage with other agencies to develop best practices for rulemaking”. The comments endorsed this concepts and suggested it be broadened to include foreign telecom regulators like the above mentioned Ofcom and IC as well as innovative entities like the North Dakota Supreme Court that issues its opinions in hypertext. It pointed out that in the ex parte rulemaking FCC limited its comparison with other agencies to FTC, and that agencies like EPA, NRC, and FAA might be closer to at least FCC’s technical jurisdiction practice.
- The report urged “better tracking of complaint data”. Following previous discussion here of emerging interference, the comments discussed several cases of large delays in handling such issues and suggester more reporting and public interaction on new interference mechanisms to determine which need timely regulatory actions and which can be handled with benign neglect.
- On the recommendation to “increase technical inputs early in rulemaking”, the comments pointed out the previous IEEE-USA recommendations on supplementing the TAC with a paid advisory committee without conflicts of interest, as EPA and NRC have, that can interact on pending policy issues in a timely way - complementing the functions of the TAC. IEEE-USA had recommended that this be a joint FCC/NTIA committee that could serve both agencies and have security clearances to handle classified issues such as GPS interference and susceptibility. It also recommended that both FCC and NTIA budget for support from National Academy of Science’s National Research Council (NAS/NRC), Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs)e.g. MITRE Corp., Rand Corp., and Aerospace Corp., in support of technical policy issues that the in-house staff do not have experience with. This would follow the practices of NRC and EPA with new technical issues.
- Finally it pointed out that even though §7 was passed 30 years ago FCC has no implementing policies and rules. It urged that FCC either adopt such now or tell Congress that §7 needs repeal or modification. (Although it would be odd to take 30 years to figure that out!)
Teri Takai, center, the Defense Department's chief information officer, Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert E. Wheeler, left, the department's deputy chief information officer, and Frederick J. Moorefield Jr., right, the department's director of spectrum policy and programs, brief reporters on the department's release of its electromagnetic spectrum strategy. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett .
On Thursday February 20, 2014 “The Department of Defense announced … the release of its Electromagnetic Spectrum Strategy (EMS) to increase available spectrum in order to meet growing demand from the commercial wireless industry while maintaining critical military capabilities.” CTIA responded almost immediately with this statement from Steve Largent:
“We agree with the DoD's conclusion that its systems must become more spectrally efficient, flexible and adaptable. In fact, these are good goals for all federal users, and CTIA looks forward to engaging with the DoD, NTIA and the whole federal user community to see how the wireless industry can help them achieve their mission objectives while ensuring that commercial users have access to the spectrum our members need to meet consumer demand and drive economic growth and innovation.”
The first thing we noticed, sort of the “elephant in the room”, was that the report that was released was dated “SEP 11 2013”:
and was actually titled “Electromagnetic Spectrum Strategy 2013 - A Call to Action”. Why this 2013 report was released more than 3 months after it was signed and dated in an unclassified form is a mystery not mentioned in any trade press coverage. Our best guess was that there are a behind the scenes disagreement somewhere within in the Executive Branch or between FCC and NTIA. CTIA’s prompt response indicates that they were not waiting for the report to appear on the DoD website.
flag chart”: DoD quantifies its mobile communications needs in terms of “Mbps per 5000 Military Members” and shows how this has increase dramatically and will continue to do so. The cellular industry, by contrast, denominates its requirements solely in terms of MHz, independent of technical developments and the gains due to infrastructure growth/cell splitting. Now presumably the industry projection included expected gains from technical efficiency improvements and infrastructure growth, but these are never itemized nor are they updated. For example, due to the availability of new technology in the past 3 years, has the spectrum requirements in the “flag chart” increased or decreased? The real requirement for both DoD and the cellular industry is really denominated in data rate as DoD has done in this report. Kudos to DoD.
Getting to the actual report, it fully supports the reallocations ordered by President Obama in June 2010 to get 500 MHz of new spectrum to cellular carriers from existing federal and non-federal spectrum. No great surprise.
A key section says:
DoD systems must become more spectrally efficient, flexible, and adaptable, and DoD spectrum operations must become more agile in their ability to access spectrum in order to increase the options available to mission planners. (Spectrum efficiency is the use of the minimum amount of EMS resources necessary to ensure maximum operational effectiveness in fully accomplishing the required mission while taking all practicable steps to minimize impacts to other systems in the EME.Spectrum flexibility and adaptability is the capability of a spectrum-dependent system (SDS) to exploit various opportunities to access spectrum – e.g., multi-band operation, increasing the ability to share spectrum with other systems (domestic or foreign, federal, or non-federal), becoming more tolerant of interference. Agile spectrum operations will enable DoD systems to utilize their flexibility and adaptability to achieve mission success in rapidly changing EMEs.)
In the past, spectrum was a “free good” (except for minor NTIA regulatory fees) for DoD and other federal users and there was no incentive to be efficient as long as enough spectrum was obtainable. Top level attention to spectrum efficiency is thus a good move in the right direction and hopefully NTIA will extend this to other agencies. But the focus in this discussion is making military systems more agile so they can access more bands as they operate around the world.
What is missing is what NTIA Chief Larry Stickling said a few months ago, “sharing is the new normal”. While DoD is implementing White House orders to make spectrum available for the politically (and economically) powerful cellular industry, will DoD be more receptive to sharing proposals in other bands and be less likely to automatically stonewall? We have repeatedly pointed out that 225-400 MHz military use generally is very different geographically than civil use (San Diego being a notable exception) and that with new technology it could be made available to civil users on an “interruptible spectrum” basis, not unlike what is being considered for the 3550-3650 MHz band. Will DoD be receptive to such creative sharing proposals? We hope so but the new policy statement is silent on the issue.
We hope DoD and NTIA will clarify the issue of what is meant by “sharing is the new normal” and specifically whether this is a one way street with respect to military spectrum use in US territory.
Will spectrum sharing in US territory be a one way street for DoD?
Your blogger will be presenting a tutorial on “A Hands-on Approach to Spectrum Regulation for Innovative Wireless Engineers” at the IEEE Dynamic Spectrum Access Networks Conference (DySPAN2014) in McLean, VA on Tuesday April 1, 2014 at 1:30 - 5 PM alongside Mr. Nelson Pollack, the former Air Force member of IRAC who has much experience in federal spectrum management issues as well as ITU matters.
Here is the summary:
National and international spectrum policy issues are key factors in the practical implementation of innovative wireless technology as spectrum access is highly regulated in all countries. This course, taught by two long time experts in spectrum policy, will review what an engineer working on cutting edge issues needs to know about what is permitted, what may be permitted, and working to push the boundaries of spectrum policy to enable new technology. The focus will be on international spectrum policy and US national policy for both private sector use and federal government use.
Registration information is here.
Hope to see you there!
On June 25, 2013 our friends at CommLawBlog published a surprising post that has not received much attention. It was entitled “Harmonic Convergence? FM Interference to 700 MHz LTE Service” and was authored by Peter Tannenwald.
The post starts:
The introduction of different species into an established ecosystem tends to be a dicey proposition. Almost invariably, co-habitation requires the sharing of scarce resources. And more often than not, the different species approach the whole sharing thing in different, not entirely compatible, ways. The result: occasional dissatisfactions and frustrations – leading to occasional inter-species frictions and fisticuffs.
Take the RF spectrum ecosystem, for example.
Most inhabitants of the spectrum have historically figured out ways to coexist in relative peace (at least for the most part) – thanks largely to the fact that the potential impact of one service on another has been taken into account in the frequency allocation process. But as the demand for spectrum increases, and every little niche is filled up, it is becoming more difficult to avoid inter-service conflicts. And sure enough, the introduction of a recent new species – 700 MHz wireless systems using LTE equipment – seems to be causing some unexpected problems.
The post goes on to describe an emerging problem of interference from FM broadcast stations to 700 MHz cellular base stations nearby. A search of the FCC website on this issue found no public documents on the FCC’s voluminous website dealing with this issue. Fortunately Google found several non-FCC documents published after Mr. Tannenwald’s breaking post.
Barry Mishkind at The Broadcasters' Desktop Resource (BDR) published a report on June 28, 2013 that is linked to a detailed technical discussion of the issue. The public trail of this event appears to begin on 6/19/13 with the issuance of a Notice of Violation* by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau’s New York District Office to WKZE-FM in Salisbury CT. The NOV alleges that their signal on 98.1 MHz had an 8th harmonic at 784.8 MHz that was causing interference to a VZW base station located approximately 500 feet away. The NOV cited 73.317(a):
(a) FM broadcast stations employing transmitters authorized after January 1, 1960, must maintain the bandwidth occupied by their emissions in accordance with the specification detailed below. FM broadcast stations employing transmitters installed or type accepted before January 1, 1960, must achieve the highest degree of compliance with these specifications practicable with their existing equipment. In either case, should harmful interference to other authorized stations occur, the licensee shall correct the problem promptly or cease operation. (Emphasis added.)
A major issue here is whether the above clear rule take precedent over the Commission’s general “first in time, first in right philosophy”** that is stated neither in the law nor as a general codified rule. We will leave it to our legal friends to parse case law on this issue.
Clearly the NAB crowd and the CTIA crowd have a major difference in viewpoint here. NAB’s past quixotic attempts to require all cell phones to have FM receivers certainly is not helping these industry giants’ mutual relationship, especially at this time of incentive auction focus by all.
We have not seen any public statements from the cellular community on this issue, so Scott Baxter’s comprehensive 10/13 presentation to the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers, a mainly broadcast engineering group, is the most definitive discussion of the technical issue on the public record. (Scott’s usual clients appear to be mostly wireless firms.)
It is unclear what the technical problem here really is, although there seems no controversy that the FM transmitter in question meets the numeric out of band emission limits of § 73.317(d):
(d) Any emission appearing on a frequency removed from the carrier by more than 600 kHz must be attenuated at least 43 + 10 Log10 (Power, in watts) dB below the level of the unmodulated carrier, or 80 dB, whichever is the lesser attenuation.
Several possible hypotheses:
- This out of band emission level of § 73.317(d) is not adequate to protect 700 MHz LTE base stations x meters away.
- The usual measurement procedure for determining this emission limit may focus too much on the power that goes to the antenna and not enough on incidental leakage from the transmitter cabinets that might have inadequate shielding in some models. (This is consistent with observations in the Baxter briefing.)
- The emission limit is adequate, but loose metal connections in or near the cellular antenna structure generate harmonics from the strong FM signal a few hundred feet away just as intermodulation products are generated in strong electromagnetic fields when there is a dense concentration of transmitters such as Mt. Wilson, CA and Sandia Ridge, NM.
- The cellular base station receivers may be inadequately filtered/shielded and subject to desensitization in strong fields from the FM transmitter hundreds of MHz away. Despite years of talk, FCC still has no general policy on receiver performance issues.
- The IEEE-USA harmful interference white paper, released in July 2012, urges FCC to clarify the issue of “minimum protection distance” with respect to all interference issues since generally any receiver will get interference if it gets too close to a transmitter. While there are clear precedents for a few cases such as personal computers near TV receivers and UWB devices near PCS cell phones, FCC has no general position on this issue or even a process to determine minimum protection distance. Thus the cellular interests will say there is should be no interference at 500 feet and the broadcaster will disagree.
- Rather than keeping this issue off the public agenda, as it has so far except for the difficult to find NOV, FCC should be engaging industry experts in an open and transparent way. This highlights one of the problems of the FCC’s Technological Advisory Committee (TAC): it is not set up to handle this type of problem as it consists mostly of technical policy managers of key players, not the technical experts in the area (National Academy of Engineering members and IEEE Fellows are rare) and meets infrequently. Thus there is no indication of any TAC involvement to date as this problem threatens LTE roll outs. Note that another IEEE-USA 2012 product, “Position Statement on Improving U.S. Spectrum Policy Deliberations in the Period 2013-2017” addressed the issue of improving advisory function based on best practices of other regulatory agencies with technical jurisdiction:
FCC and NTIA should supplement their existing Technological Advisory Council (TAC) and Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee (CSMAC), which consist mainly of representatives of major communications firms, with a new advisory committee that serves both agencies and focuses on independent review of options for resolving spectrum conflicts and identifying outdated policies. The new group should be modeled on the EPA Science Advisory Board and the NRC Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards and members should have the necessary security clearances to deal with issues involving classified federal government spectrum users, if so requested.
- “Emerging interference” has been a recurring topic in this blog. In our dynamic wireless industry it is not surprising the new and unexpected interference mechanism appear in practice and need timely attention, for the bigger they become they usually become harder to solve. But for decades FCC has had no mechanism for dealing with emerging interference issues. Thus the police radar detector interference to VSAT receivers took more than a decade to resolve (the official FCC records “fuzzify” the starting date of the problem) and the “cellular booster” issue took 6+ years. FCC needs a generic and transparent problem for identifying such issues promptly and for engaging the public on which need urgent attention and which deserve “benign neglect”. For example, home TV antennas with built-in amplifiers, rare prior to DTV, are a recurring source of interference to TV and other services at a modest rate and it is marginal whether the issue needs regulatory attention at this time. But how many top FCC managers and 8th Floor residents are aware of this and other emerging issues?
- This is closely related to the reason why the Commission’s Spectrum Policy Task Force originally raised the issue of “interference temperature” a decade ago. The goal was to define better what environment systems should expect in practical operation. It may well be that the designers of these base station never considered an environment with a strong FM signal present from a nearby transmitters. But the NOI/NPRM in Docket No. 03-237 was so poorly and confusingly written that FCC closed the docket in 2007 and has never expressed any further interest in the issue. Whether or not interference temperature is ever used as a basis for allowing more unlicensed use, quantifying expectation really would help incumbents and would allow timely resolution of controversies such as this FM/LTE one.
Your blogger has filed a FOIA request with FCC seeking all correspondence on this issue with outside parties relating to the NOV. It does not seek internal FCC documents that have various FOIA exemptions. These documents will be posted here as soon as they are available. However, unless they embarrass Rupert Murdoch, that probably won’t be soon.
* The NOV URL given is from the FCC website, BUT we have found no way to get there unless you happen to have bookmarked the URL for Notices of Violation and Notices of Unlicensed Operation issued by Field Offices or the Enforcement Bureau’s old home page - no longer linked to the main FCC website.
** - The “newcomer” policy dates back to Midnight Sun Broadcasting Co., Memorandum Opinion and Order, 11 FCC 1119 (1947), in which the Commission held a broadcaster responsible for resolving interference caused by its new facilities to other preexisting facilities in close proximity. See FCC 13-115 at para. 4 and fn. 7
In a tweet responding to this post, Brett Glass hypothesized “FM could be hitting inadequately shielded IF stages in LTE equipment.”