US govt settles wireless spectrum dispute

The US government and the wireless technology industry have resolved a dispute that threatened to curtail the deployment of the...

The US government and the wireless technology industry have resolved a dispute that threatened to curtail the deployment of the next generation of wireless networking and communications technology that uses the 802.11a standard.

As part of an agreement reached on Friday, the government will open 255MHz in the middle of the 5GHz spectrum to unlicensed use, creating 11 additional channels on which 802.11a wireless devices can operate, according to Rich Redelfs, chief executive officer and president of Atheros Communications, which lobbied the government for changes in the spectrum rules.

The dispute between the wireless industry and the government arose over concerns voiced by the US Department of Defense that devices using the 802.11a standard would interfere with military radars that also use that spectrum.

The government's National Telecommunications and Information Administration issued a statement on Friday in which it expressed satisfaction with the deal and the compromises that were reached.

As opposed to devices that use the 802.11b standard and transfer data at up to 11Mbps, 802.11a devices can exchange data at faster rates, at up to 54Mbps, but have a more limited range.

The agreement will also allow the US to present a united front in the upcoming World Radio Conference in Geneva in June, when representatives from different countries will meet to agree on spectrum allowances and rules.

Without an agreement, the US might have had a tough time getting backing for its own plan, especially because the same 255 MHz band is already open to unlicensed use in Europe.

"We think it's a great win for the [wireless] industry," Redelfs said. "It's a recognition of the importance of the wireless Lan industry and it gives us room to grow. If we don't have enough spectrum and channels, the growth of wireless could all come to a screeching halt - like a tower of Babel."

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