U.S. close to gaining spectrum for Boeing broadband at WRC-03

But Wi-Fi and satellite navigation issues remain unresolved

The U.S. delegation to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-03) in Geneva has already made progress on one of its key issues: frequency allocations for a broadband satellite service backed by The Boeing Co.

Ambassador Janice Obuchowski, head of the U.S. delegation, said in a teleconference for the media today that the delegation still faces hurdles with two other key issues at WRC-03: global coordination of the spectrum in the 5-GHz band for 802.11a Wi-Fi wireless LANs and higher power levels for the next generation of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites. The ITU, which includes more than 180 nations, holds its conference every three years to slice up increasingly valuable radio frequency spectrum used by satellite and terrestrial systems.

Obuchowski said that in the first week of the conference, the U.S. delegation made real progress in getting the spectrum allocation Chicago-based Boeing wants for its Connexion by Boeing high-speed service. Boeing currently operates Connexion under an experimental license, and the U.S. wants a global allocation for Boeing in the 14-to-14.5-GHz bands.

The U.S. still has a way to go to resolve spectrum issues for Wi-Fi, Obuchowski said. A number of countries, including members of the European Union, want to limit a portion of the 5-GHz band designated for Wi-Fi use, 5250-to-5350 MHz, for indoor use only because of concerns that it could interfere with other systems, such as radar, in the same band.

The U.S. believes use of this portion of the Wi-Fi band should be allowed indoors and outdoors. "It's too soon to tell how that debate will unfold," Obuchowski said.

The WRC-03 began June 9 and runs through July 4.

Gary Robertson, executive director for global infrastructure at Delphi Corp., said a single global Wi-Fi standard is essential. "Global standards are always good for global companies," he said. "Standards that are different in different countries drive us nuts."

Paul Adams, Delphi's chief IT architect, said the WRC debate on 5-GHz Wi-Fi frequencies and standards has a real and immediate bearing on the Troy, Mich.-based vehicle electronics manufacturer. It wants to use the 54Mbit/sec. 802.11a Wi-Fi service for employees who need a higher throughput than the 11Mbit/sec. provided by 802.11b systems to support the transfer of large files, such as 3-D graphics. Adams estimated that slightly more than 6,000 Delphi workers worldwide will be equipped with 802.11a capability.

The U.S. WRC-03 delegation still hasn't resolved concerns about higher power levels for the next generation of GPS satellites. The power issue has been coupled at the conference with questions about planned power output from the EU's Galileo GPS system (see story). According to Obuchowski, the issue before the conference "is to deploy Galileo and upgrade GPS, [and] ensure we do not impede other services in the band."

Both Galileo and GPS broadcast some of their signals in the 1164-to-1215-MHz band. That band is also used by land-based aeronautical systems, and the International Civil Aviation Organization wants power limits on satellite navigation systems to protect the ground-based systems from interference.

A U.S. delegation spokesman, who declined to be identified, said that the U.S. is dealing with the possibility that the EU could require U.S.-based airlines to use Galileo when operating in European airspace in its negotiations with the EU.

Richard Langley, professor of geodesy and a GPS expert at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, said such a requirement could force U.S. airlines to buy additional equipment as well as pay a fee for the Galileo service. Unlike GPS -- whose civil signal is free to anyone in the world -- Galileo will offer tiered services, with only the most basic and least accurate service free.

The U.S. is also talking with the EU over plans by Galileo to overlay another of its signals in the1575.42 L1 band used by GPS. The U.S. wants to use those bands for an improved, encrypted "M-code" available only to military users.

This is a contentious issue, Langley said, because the U.S. might want to jam Galileo in time of war, and having Galileo signals in the same bands as the M-codes would mean the U.S. could end up jamming signals needed by its own forces.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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