Tales of the Sausage Factory: Last Gasp on Unlicensed Order

As those who follow unlicensed proceedings at the FCC here know, the FCC has been considering opening up the 2650-3700 MHz band to unlicensed use. The rumor is that the FCC will vote on the item at its March 10 meeting. I have also heard that the item is not particularly friendly to mesh networks. We have until Wed. March 2, 2005, 5 p.m. Eastern Time to turn this around. Wanna help?

The 3650-3700 MHz band is relatively open and is under consideration by the FCC for expanded unlicensed use. The FCC proposed to allow fixed “high power” (25 watts EIRP) unlicensed operation and more standard mobile “low power” (1 watt EIRP) operation– as long as certain incumbent operations are proetcted.

I have heard that the FCC instead is likely to authorize high power as a “licensed lite” regime in which the first operator is protected against interference and all subsequent operators must seek permission of the first operator to activate their systems. This is known as a “first in time, first in right” scheme.

I have heard from the good folks at CUWIN that this would be a disaster for low power mesh networks in urban areas. Basically, the party that gets to the tallest building first will be able to blanket the entire area and prevent other systems from going live.

Under federal law, parties may file comments with the FCC until Wed., March 2, 5 p.m. Eastern time. I am urging anyone who cares about the future of mesh networks to file at the FCC and emphasize the following points:

1) Open spectrum/open source is a volunteer community. Barriers to entry must be low, and the FCC must recognize that investment happens without big corporations or well-funded start ups. Rules that prohibit or limit the ability of multiple entrants will make it next to impossible for open source mesh systems to deploy.

2) Low power is more important in many communities than high-power. The FCC must not sacrifice the possibility of low power mesh in the 3650-3700 MHz band for the sake of high-power in the band. Ideally, the FCC should have rules that permit both, as high power is necessary for backhaul and can be useful in point to point. But if the FCC insists on chosing, it should keep the low power option and implement high power when cognative radio technology has improved.

3) Above all, the FCC must not establish exclusive licensing or “first in time, first in right” site licensing that will make it impossible for communities to deploy numerous open source solutions.

Intel’s filing opposing us on this can be found here. While Intel supports open source and open spectrum in some bands, it supports closed proprietary systems in others. This is why open source/open spectrum supporters cannot rely on our “friends” in private industry. In any given proceeding, they will file in accordance with their interests of the moment.

To file a comment, go to the FCC’s ECFS comment upload page. In the “proceeding” field, type 04-151. The rest is self-explanatory.

You do not need to be a U.S. citizen to file a comment. Anyone can do so. You should, however, explain your interest in the proceeding (e.g., “I am an open source developer and I wish to take advantage of new opportunities for open source-based wireless networking”). Then reiterate from the key points in your own words.

Remember, if the FCC does not hear from smart people, it will only make dumb rules.

Stay tuned . . .


  1. Helping to spread the word…

  2. We do need more spectrum. Perhaps a better organized call to action is required? I commented before the deadline.

  3. Done.

    Thanks for the nudge.

  4. To Drew: I circulated info prior to the deadline for commenting, as did others. This call comes from information I have received from inside the FCC that (a) the order is being decided, and (b) we are not doing too well.

    It is important to get into the record on time. It is equally important to sound the final charge to try to influence the Commission as it decides on a final order.

  5. I put your call on the Open Spectrum International website, Harold, and will try to compose my own comments as well.

  6. It looks like the effort was a success. Check out the FCC Headlines.

    "3/10/05 – FCC Opens Access to New Spectrum for Wireless Broadband in the 3650 MHz Band."


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