UWB Wins, Over Nets' Objections


Overriding cable companies' concerns that ultra wideband devices would interfere with video programming distributed via satellite, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved rules meant to expedite deployment of the technology.

The FCC denied petitions by several cable programmers and satellite companies to reconsider a previous rule that permitted the use of UWB wireless-Internet communications devices in the frequency band between 3.1 and 10.6 Gigahertz.

Cable companies had urged the agency to rein in the use of UWB devices, arguing that if used widely, they would disrupt low-power C-band satellite transmissions, especially in the 3.7-to-4.2-GHz band cable operators use to downlink video programming.

Major harm cited

Operators and programmers trumpeted a recent Satellite Industry Association study, which concluded that "implementation of the Commission rules for use of ultra-wideband devices would irreparably harm earth stations operating" in the 4 GHz band.

In an FCC filing this month, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said that "further analysis and testing of the use of C-band frequencies by UWB devices is necessary to ensure they do not disrupt distribution of cable services."

"We urge the commission not to adopt final technical rules for UWB devices until this analysis can be done and appropriate remedies adopted," NCTA senior vice president of law and regulatory policy Daniel Brenner.

Several cable programmers, including AOL Time Warner Inc. and Viacom Inc., echoed NCTA's argument.

"Given this interference potential, widespread deployment of UWB devices under current technical rules could cause significant disruption to video program distribution," AOL Time Warner vice president and general counsel Steven Teplitz wrote this month to the FCC.

Satellite-industry officials had said viable solutions would include making the frequency used for downlinking off limits to UWB devices, or reducing the devices' power levels so they do not interfere with satellite transmissions.

FCC assurances

In dismissing those concerns, the FCC said Thursday that it would make sure that individual UWB devices do not interfere with satellite or other transmissions.

"As UWB devices are brought to market, the FCC will test them and be alert for interference complaints — but today's continued conservative approach should minimize interference problems," said FCC commissioner Michael Copps.

The FCC's decision affirms a tentative ruling it made last year, which allowed the use of UWB devices within certain frequencies.

At the time, the commission cited a National Telecommunications and Information Administration study which said the UWB emissions would not interfere with C-band satellite transmissions.

The latest FCC order came amid a new report that the Federal Aviation Administration has made a preliminary determination that ground-penetrating UWB devices will interfere with helicopters and other aircraft flying at low altitudes.

And a satellite-industry attorney who handles regulatory issues said the FCC was relying on a flawed study when it determined that interference was not a problem.

The attorney, who asked not to be identified, said the study was based on average levels of UWB emissions and did not take into account peak emissions levels, when most interference occurs.

"That's what kills us," he said.

States News Service