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Telecom Business Alert -- Vol. VII Issue 31

Date: Aug 09, 2010

FCC Considers Broad Changes to Microwave Rules

Last week, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry (NPRM/NOI) exploring ways to increase the flexibility, capacity and cost-effectiveness of the microwave bands below 13 GHz. The NPRM/NOI incorporates several proceedings currently before the Commission, including Adaptive Modulation (allowing microwave links to operate at lower capacity during periods of fading) and a proposal to permit licensees to deploy auxiliary secondary fixed links within the side lobes of a primary microwave station (previously known as concurrent coordination). The NPRM/NOI also proposes to allow microwave licensees to share spectrum currently allocated to the Broadcast Auxiliary and Cable TV Relay Services, and seeks information on lowering minimum efficiency requirements in rural areas and current antenna standards. The Commission also called upon interested parties to recommend additional modifications to Part 101 of the rules, or other Commission rules, to promote efficient wireless backhaul service. Comments are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, which has not yet occurred.

FAA Backs Away from Proposal to Regulate Electromagnetic Interference

In welcome news to wireless users, the FAA recently withdrew its 2006 proposal to establish notification requirements and obstruction standards for transmitting in the bands 54-108, 150-216, 406-420, 932-935/941, 952-960, 1390-1400, 2500-2700, 3700-4200, 5000-5650, 5925-6525, 7450-8550 MHz and 14.2-14.4 and 21.2-23.6 GHz. The rules, which were widely opposed by K&H client the American Petroleum Institute (API) and others, would have required FAA approval for any modification to a system operating in these bands including: a change in authorized frequency, addition of new frequency, increase in effective radiated power (ERP) of 3 decibels (db) or more, and modification of radiating elements such as 1) antenna mounting location if increased 100 feet or more 2) changes in antenna specifications (including gain, beam-width, polarization, pattern), and 3) changes in antenna azimuth/bearing. The rules would have been a significant new burden to many FCC licensees. The FAA stated that upon reflection, many of the bands "do not present concern" and that it did not wish "to add a duplicative review and coordination process" to already existing federal processes. Senator Rockefeller Introduces Bill to Allocate 700 MHz D Block to Public Safety On August 5, 2010, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, (D-WV) Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, introduced the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act, which would allocate the 10 MHz of 700 MHz band D-Block spectrum directly to Public Safety. The Bill is responsive to Public Safety's lobbying efforts and may persuade the FCC to defer auction plans until Congress provides a definitive signal on whether to move forward with the D-Block auction. One of the more unique proposals in the Bill would direct the FCC to establish standards that allow public safety officials, when not using the network, to lease capacity on a secondary, but preemptible basis to non-public safety entities, including other governmental and commercial users. The likelihood of the Bill becoming law, however, is hurt by the limited time remaining in this session of Congress. If not passed this year, the Bill will need to be reintroduced in the next legislative session. Harris Corp. Warns on Coming Changes to Intrinsically Safe Devices Last week at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) conference in Houston, Texas, officials with Harris Corporation, which acquired two-way radio vendor M/A-Com last year, became the latest company to warn users of changes to Intrinsically Safe device standards coming in 2012. Motorola had previously raised this issue with various users groups. Intrinsically Safe designs ensure that electronic equipment used in potentially explosive atmospheres do not ignite flammable substances. The changes reportedly being adopted by insurer Factory Mutual will bring the Intrinsically Safe standards used in the U.S. into line with European standards. Equipment manufacturers are reporting that the new standards will require redesign of Intrinsically Safe radios from the ground-up, resulting in larger portable units and limiting power to 0.5 watts.

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