Thursday, June 8, 2006

FCC Plans Spectrum Sharing Testbed

The FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration seek to evaluate innovative methods for spectrum sharing among disparate users to enable more intensive use of the finite radio spectrum. The plan is to set up a test-bed where both federal and non-federal users could undertake one or more studies and experiments to test these ideas.

In June 2004, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued two reports with policy recommendations for improving spectrum management. One report addressed federal spectrum use and the other addressed commercial and state and local public safety spectrum use.4 Both reports included a recommendation that the Commission and the NTIA develop a Spectrum Sharing Innovation Test-Bed for use in planning how spectrum can best be shared between federal and non-federal users.

As part of the undertaking, NTIA and the FCC might each identify a segment of spectrum of equal bandwidth within their respective jurisdiction for this program. Each segment should be approximately 10 MHz for assignment on a shared basis for federal and non-federal use. The spectrum to be identified for this pilot program could come from bands currently allocated on either an exclusive or shared basis.

The test-bed could be used to effectuate many goals, including testing dynamic spectrum access techniques, developing new technologies for public safety and streamlining spectrum coordination processes between federal and non-federal users.

Public comments are sought.

Court Affirms FCC's VoIP CALEA Ruling

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the FCC's decision concluding that VoIP and facilities- based broadband Internet access providers have CALEA obligations similar to those of telephone companies.
  • In May 2006, The FCC voted to adopt an order that requires facilities-based broadband Internet access providers and interconnected VOIP providers to provide Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) with all of the resources of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), enacted in 1994. The current CALEA proceeding was initiated in response to a Joint Petition filed by the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Drug Enforcement Administration in March 2004. These law enforcement agencies had asked the FCC to address several issues so that industry and Law Enforcement would have clear guidance as CALEA implementation moves forward.

IEEE Begins Work on Wireless, Long-Wavelength Standard (P1902.1)

The IEEE has begun work on a new standard, IEEE P1902.1, which will improve upon the visibility network protocol known as RuBee.

RuBee is a bidirectional, on-demand, peer-to-peer, radiating, transceiver protocol operating at wavelengths below 450 Khz. This protocol works in harsh environments with networks of many thousands of tags and has an area range of 10 to 50 feet. RuBee networks and tags are distinguished from most RFID tags in that they are unaffected by liquids and can be used underwater and underground. RuBee networks are already deployed in commercial applications, including: smart shelves for high-value medical devices in hospitals and operating rooms; smart, in-store and warehouse shelves for inventory tracking; and a variety of agricultural visibility networks for livestock, elk and other exotic animals.

The IEEE said one of the advantages of long-wavelength technology is that the radio tags can be low in cost, near credit card thin (1.5 mm), and fully programmable using 4 bit processors. Despite their high functionality, RuBee radio tags have a proven battery life of ten years or more using low-cost, coin-size lithium batteries. The RuBee protocol works with both active radio tags and passive tags that have no battery.

IEEE P1902.1 will offer a "real-time, tag searchable" protocol using IPv4 addresses and subnet addresses linked to asset taxonomies that run at speeds of 300 to 9,600 Baud. RuBee Visibility Networks are managed by a low-cost Ethernet enabled router. Individual tags and tag data may be viewed as a stand-alone, web server from anywhere in the world. Each RuBee tag, if properly enabled, can be discovered and monitored over the World Wide Web using search engines (e.g., Google) or via the Visible Asset's ".tag" Tag Name Server.

IEEE P1902.1 devices will be able to be used as implantable medical sensors having a 10-to-15-year battery life, depending on the number of reads and writes. The ability of RuBee tags to maintain performance around steel, so they work well when steel shelves are present, removes a key obstacle for low-cost deployment of RFID in retail, item-level tracking environments.

IEEE P1902.1 will be developed within the IEEE Corporate Standards Program. It is targeted for completion in late 2007.

The new IEEE P1902.1 standard will address physical and data-link layers based on the existing working RuBee protocol now in use. The new IEEE standard will support interoperation of RuBee tags, RuBee chips, RuBee network routers and other equipment now slated to be rolled out by several different manufacturers.

DOJ Nationwide Wireless Network RFP Begins Final Phase

The Department of Justice selected vendor teams led by General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin to compete in the final phase of the multi-billion dollar Integrated Wireless Network (IWN) competition. Lockheed Martin is leading a team of vendors on the bid.

IWN will provide secure, interoperable nationwide wireless communications for more than 80,000 federal law enforcement agents and officers and support multi-agency operations between the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Treasury.

IWN is jointly managed by the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Treasury. The government plans to award an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (ID/IQ) contract with a base period of five years, with two additional five-year options.

The Department of Justice said that by providing near-instant communication availability and system response, highly reliable communications, and physical and encryption security features that minimize interception of sensitive communications, IWN will make law enforcement and protective operations more effective, efficient and safe.


U.S. House Approves COPE Telecom Reform Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the "Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement (COPE) Act of 2006" (H.R. 5252) by a vote of 321- 101. The final bill provides for national video franchises and did not include a Net Neutrality provision.

Key provisions of the bill include.

  • Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to provide for a national franchise to provide cable service in lieu of any other authority under federal, state, or local law. Obtaining the franchise requires: the filing of a franchise certification with the FCC; and cable operators with a national franchise must provide a specified minimum of channel capacity for public, educational, and governmental use, and to meet certain other requirements. The bill gives makes the FCC responsible for enforcement of franchising requirements.

  • Requires an annual FCC report on the deployment of cable service, including deployment by new cable operators.

  • Empowers the FCC to enforce its broadband policy statement and principles. Requires an FCC study regarding whether such statement and principles are being achieved.

  • Requires VOIP service providers to ensure that 911 and E-911 services are provided to subscribers of VOIP services. The bill outlines rights and obligations of VOIP service providers.

  • Allows the municipal provision of cable services, requiring competition neutrality among all providers in an area.

  • Prohibits a broadband service provider from requiring a subscriber, as a condition for such service, to purchase any cable, telecommunications, or VOIP service offered by the provider.

  • Directs the FCC to further the development of seamless mobility, requiring a study identifying barriers to achieving seamless mobility.

The issue of telecom reform is now expected to be taken up by the U.S. Senate.

Some industry reaction:

Verizon: "The strong vote against regulation of the Internet suggests the Congress won't go down the road of legislating solutions to problems that don't exist. As the White House said in its policy statement, 'the FCC currently has sufficient authority to address potential abuses in the marketplace. Creating a new legislative framework for regulation in this area is premature." Peter Davidson, Verizon senior vice president for federal government relations

BellSouth: "Completion of video franchise legislation will allow faster rollout of a video service that can provide another competitive alternative to cable, offering the kind of customer service and quality that customers demand. Given the amount of debate over so called 'net neutrality' during consideration of this bill, let me again assure consumers that BellSouth will not block or degrade access to any legal content on the internet. Net neutrality is a phony issue and it ought to be laid to rest by today's vote," Herschel Abbott, BellSouth

Pulver: "Under the guise of advancing IP technology, the US House of Representatives perpetrated a monumental disservice to the Internet and passed the COPE Bill, with several 11th hour amendments that reveal a remarkable misunderstanding of what the Internet could be." Jeff Pulver

The Telecommunications Industry Association: "TIA believes that this legislation will spur long awaited deployment of advanced networks and will allow market forces to drive down the price of video service for consumers. This competition would stimulate billions of dollars in investment in our nation's broadband network, creating thousands of new jobs in the process. This legislation provides a new framework that will allow for greater consumer choice into the video service market in a manner that will quickly lead to lower prices for all consumers across the country," TIA President, Matthew Flanigan.

Consumer Electronics Association: "Americans have been introduced to the world of Internet Protocol (IP)-enabled video networks. To realize the networks' full potential, consumers must be able to choose from the exciting array of innovative new devices being developed by consumer electronics manufacturers. We are pleased this legislation includes language that secures this attachment ability," CEA's Vice President of Government Affairs Michael Petricone

Cisco to Acquire Metreos and Audium for Application Creation/Integration into Service Networks

Cisco Systems agreed to acquire privately-held Metreos Corp of Austin, Texas, and Audium Corp of New York in two separate deals. Both of these companies offer application creation/integration environments which will strengthen Cisco's Service Oriented Network Architecture (SONA). Cisco's recently announced its Unified Communications system, which leverages SONA, enables enterprise customers to integrate their communications systems with their IT infrastructure, thereby creating a single enterprise-wide communications platform.

Metreos is a provider of IP communication application development and management environments. Cisco said the acquisition would help its ecosystem of third party technology partners, systems integrators, value-added resellers, and customers build and deliver applications on Cisco's Unified Communications System.

Cisco will pay approximately $28 million in cash for Metreos. The company was founded in 2001 and has 19 employees.

Audium is a provider of VoiceXML speech self-service application development and management environments. The acquisition will enable enterprises to easily build automated voice response applications that are integrated with not only their converged IP network but also work well within their Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) enabling the use of common services across the network. Leveraging the intelligence of the network, Audium's technology further strengthens Cisco's SONA and provides a platform for enterprises to integrate their business process workflow with their speech self-service applications.

Cisco will pay $19.8 million in cash for Audium, which was founded in 1999 and has 26 employees.

Cisco said that By acquiring Metreos and Audium and their standards-based creation and integration tools, customers and partners will be able to rapidly build customized communications applications that are fully integrated across the enterprise IT infrastructure, enterprise applications, and enterprise contact centers.

"Cisco's Unified Communications system enables businesses to leverage their Cisco networks as a platform for integrating voice, video, data and mobility services," said Don Proctor, senior vice president of Cisco's Voice Technology Group. "Using common SOA standards, such as XML and VXML, these acquisitions will help our customers streamline key business processes by integrating their communications environment with their information systems."