Friday, July 20, 2012

PCAST Report endorses receiver interference limits

The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released its report Realizing the Full Potential of Government-Held Spectrum to Spur Economic Growth today (PDF, Administration’s blog post, webcast).

The main thrust of the report is the need for a shift from clearing and reallocating federal spectrum to dynamic sharing. As part of implementation, the report recommends that interference limits are used to include receiver considerations in spectrum management. (I was an advisor to the PCAST committee that wrote this report.)

Recommendation 3.1: The Secretary of Commerce working through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), in cooperation with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), should establish methodologies for spectrum management that consider both transmitter and receiver characteristics to enable flexible sharing of spectrum. To safeguard primary Federal users, FCC should require that future non-Federal devices will be permitted to share government spectrum as Secondary Access users only if they are certified to operate within the stated interference limits for the band of interest. Initial specification of protection should be reviewed such that they safeguard new FCC assignments against harmful interference while grandfathering in existing devices and operations.
The report recommends that “[i]n order to facilitate more intensive and efficient sharing among Federal users, the NTIA should set and publish receiver interference limits using a transparent process for government assignments” It also recommends that “in the immediate timeframe, the FCC should begin the Notice and Comment cycle on implementing receiver interference limits as part of license terms for new allocations, updating old licenses to include receiver interference limits, and ex ante enforcement mechanism for non-Federal devices sharing with Federal users.” (Section 7.3, p. 77-78)

A detailed discussion of interference limits is given in Appendix D (p. 107 ff.).

Thursday, July 05, 2012

From Kwerel & Williams to Interference Limits

Evan Kwerel & John Williams have proposed that future allocations should self-protect against projected adjacent band interference by assuming that they will receive only the “protections provided between flexible use bands” (Kwerel & Williams 2011, references at the end). The slide deck in Kwerel & Williams (2012) provides more detail: when a new allocation is being established next to a band likely to be repurposed for flexible use, the new allocation must (1) protect existing systems and future flexible use systems in that adjacent band, and (2) self-protect against interference from those systems, where flexible use systems is defined as “a dense deployment of base, mobile and fixed transmitters operating at fully functional power levels typical of a modern wireless cellular architecture.”

 Requirement (2) bears on the receivers of the new allocation. It resembles a qualitative interference limit based on the resulting energy from a “modern wireless cellular architecture.” A key selling point of this approach is that it doesn’t go beyond familiar parameters already used in regulation, like transmitter EIRP, compared to over interference limits that introduce probability distributions of resulting signal strength.

Thinking about a cellular deployment in the adjacent band is a very useful starting point. However, I do not believe it is precise enough to be useful in regulation, and particularly in enforcement. If one removes the studied ambiguity of the Kwerel & Williams proposal, the apparent familiarity and resemblance to existing rules evaporates, and one ends up with interference limits.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Transmitter versus receiver specifications: measuring loudness versus determining understanding

In arguing that regulators should attend to receivers as well as transmitters, I’ve may have mistakenly left the impression that they’re symmetrical, e.g. that one is a reflection of the other. For example, in “Four Concerns about Interference Limits” I observed that a communication system can be engineered to operate successfully either by improving receivers, or by delivering more transmitted power.

However, this framing is potentially misleading. It could be taken to mean that transmission and reception are two sides of a coin, that they are similar in kind, but that one is the reflection or complement of the other. They’re actually more like the outside (transmission) and inside (reception) of a black box - a black box like the human head, say.