Friday, December 21, 2018


In his wonderful Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman says that the trickster god Loki makes the world more interesting, but less safe. He explains that it was Loki’s fault that the gods got their greatest treasures, and sums him up this way: “You resented him even when you were at your most grateful, and you were grateful to him even when you hated him the most.”

That sounds a lot like technology to me.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A quiet and compelling voice

Dallas Taylor recently did a Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast about sonic branding. I was taken by the voice of Walter Werzowa, founder of Musikvergnuegen and the creative behind the Intel Inside sound, among many others.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Odysseus, Master of Fake News

I’m listening to the Odyssey at the moment (Dan Stevens reading the Fitzgerald translation, and I’ve realized Odysseus is a chronic liar. He tells people whatever he needs them to believe – he’s a master of fake news.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Ofcom's DECT guard band award as a club good auction

Toby Youell (@tobyyouell, linkedin) pointed out to me that Ofcom’s 2006 sale of DECT guard band licenses was an auction of spectrum club goods (cf. my blog post). It’s a great insight, and a helpful comparison.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Satellite Constellation Spectrum as a Common Pool Resource

The radio allocations of satellite constellations in non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) are an FCC-managed commons. In an earlier post, I explored how the bands allocated to NGSO constellations could be managed by assigning private rights by auction. I envisaged a set-up where operators could pay for priority protection, creating an interference protection ranking. In this post, I explore the possibility of treating NGSO allocations as a common pool resource.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Auctioning non-exclusive mmwave licenses

Petri Mähönen, Ljiljana Simić and I recently filed comments in the Spectrum Frontiers proceeding, FCC Docket No. 14-177 (filing page, pdf, docket on ECFS). We argued that the operating and propagation characteristics of mm-wave systems mean that non-exclusive licensing – meaning in this case, a limited number of large-area licenses assigned by auction – is an appropriate middle path between exclusive large-area licensing (which may lead to under-utilization) and unlicensed (which may not provide sufficient interference protection).

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Microcosms: Patrick Leigh Fermor’s “Mani”

Man is a universe in little

Visualize a map of Greece, a fore-arm and paw stubbed into the Mediterranean from the rump of Eastern Europe. The paw ends in three claws stretching towards Crete. The Mani – subject of my current obsession, Patrick Leigh Fermor’s “Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese” (1958) – is the middle and narrowest of the three, just 15 km wide and 50 km long.
Die boek is gebaseer op Leigh Fermor se omswerwinge in Griekeland na die Tweede Wêreldoorlog met sy reisgenoot en later vrou, Joan. My pa, vyf jaar jonger as Leigh Fermor, moes omtrent dieselfde tyd daar gewees het.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Resulting field strength rules: New reasons for an old idea

Current transmit power limits don’t provide sufficient constraints on interference, particularly when applied to modern systems (such as in the millimeter-wave bands) that deliver signal levels that change dramatically and rapidly from moment to moment, and place to place. I believe that limits on resulting field strength, rather than transmitted power, will be necessary in new allocations, particularly in the millimeter-wave bands.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Satellite constellation license auctions

Broadband satellite constellations in non-geostationary orbits (NGSO) will share frequency bands. They will interfere with each other from time to time. How should such conflicts be resolved? FCC rules encourage constellations to coordinate their operations, treating the shared NGSO bands as something like an FCC-supervised commons. However, spectrum regulators have increasingly used auctions to assign radio operating rights (cf. cellular licenses), and largely left it to the market to solve coordination problems. Could spectrum auctions be used for NGSO operation?

Monday, June 25, 2018

Evolving sharing

Now that it’s clear the Trump administration supports spectrum sharing (FierceWireless), this option will become even more salient in policy debates. I think the hardest question is how to allow a legacy incumbent to adjust their operation over time, potentially encroaching on the rights of new entrants.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Bringing a gun to a knife fight (spectrum edition)

As I pointed out in “Satellite spectrum efficiency” the satellite industry can’t win a spectrum auction fight with cellular since the cellular industry generates more $/Hz. This obviously generalizes to any number of industries competing in a license auction; the industry that generates the most $/Hz will always win. (The question of how overwhelming the win is, as a function of differences between industry $/Hz distributions, is left as an exercise.) So what?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Three satellite eras

Dramatic increases in the number of two-way satellite terminals is a key issue in current spectrum policy, e.g. the argument between satellite and cellular interests in the millimeter wave bands. Most Earth stations used to be TV receivers. However, the growth of satellite broadband service is increasing the number of Earth station transmitters.While it's an over-simplification, but it helps me to think of the number of earth station transmitters (often referred to as uplinks) growing in three overlapping and cumulative eras.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Satellite spectrum efficiency

I’m no fan of the concept of spectrum efficiency, but it’s helping me understand the gulf between the cellular and satellite businesses.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Economic rivalry, interference and spectrum allocation

I’m intrigued by the questions:
  • What is the relationship (if any) between rivalry and licensing regime in spectrum regulations to date? 
  • And what should it be in the future? 
 I think such work could shed light on efforts to allocate and assign millimeter-wave spectrum (roughly, above 30 GHz).

Friday, May 11, 2018

Scale change and regulatory change

The current and forecast growth in the number of satellite systems is putting strain on how the FCC and other agencies regulate satellites. There’s a lot of talk of regulatory reform, and calls for comprehensive rather than incremental change.

That leads me to wonder: are there instructive precedents where a step change in the scale of an industry or activity forced a complete restructuring of regulation; or conversely, where change in regulation let to a change of scale?  Perhaps there are examples where one might take lessons for the reform of space governance.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Managing next-generation satellite interference

Big-time spectrum sharing is coming to space operations. There may soon be thousands of satellites, from half a dozen or more operators, operating in the same bands, at the same time, flashing in and out of interfering alignments as they crisscross the sky. These planned non-GSO (non-geostationary orbit) deployments bring unprecedented complexity to the space business.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Is harmful radio interference decreasing?

Spectrum analysts (including me) often proclaim that harmful interference is a growing problem, or at the very least a growing risk. That sounds plausible, given the growing profusion of radios, packed more and more densely together. But what if the opposite is true?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Constellation satellite broadband: the first shoe drops

I’ve never been convinced about the business model for satellite constellation broadband. However, much smarter (and much, much richer) people than me have invested billions in these businesses. How could one tell if there's going to be a there over there?