Saturday, March 8, 2008

Every Blog has to Start Somewhere…

So I found myself staring at a blank screen thinking how do I make this relevant, useful and, valuable to anyone who reads it? So sticking to the tradition that a blog is a conversation let me start by telling you a story: Why did we start Spectrum Bridge and why do we think it will be successful?

We have spent most of our working lives in the communications industry and the wireless industry in particular - much of it providing wireless solutions to industries that need wireless communications as a business tool. In the days of two-way voice and push to talk communication this was pretty easy. But now those same enterprise customers need broadband data applications, everything from telemetry to remote desktops, video surveillance and mobile workers. These applications require bandwidth far in excess of a voice application. Voice can be compressed into a 12.5 kHz channel where as a video needs at least 20 times that much spectrum.

So where was all this spectrum to come from? New Spectrum allocations from the FCC are few and far between. What little is available (witness the current 700MHz auctions) is gobbled up by wireless titans like AT&T and Verizon for billions of dollars.

The only viable solution for enterprises today is to run in one of the unlicensed bands, either 2.4GHz or 5.8GHz, sometimes known as the ISM and UNII bands. The great thing about these bands is they are free. But, as with most things, you get what you pay for. The Part 15 radios that are certified for unlicensed operation are very low power and use contention based access which means that the coverage model is challenged and the QOS cannot be guaranteed. These are not things that an enterprise can compromise on for mission critical applications.

However if you break down a typical 700MHz auction bid, it translates into roughly $2,000 per square mile. So having a capability to disaggregate spectrum into small geographic areas was one of the basic ideas that became Spectrum Bridge. We knew of many enterprises that could afford a few thousand dollars per year to guarantee their access to spectrum. In many cases the cost could be instantly recouped because the capital cost of the equipment was much lower.

Deploying WiFi in the ISM band requires anywhere from 18-50 Access Points per square mile. Yet deploy a private WiMax network in the EBS band and the number of base stations required is 2-5. So even though the WiMax equipment is relatively expensive today compared to WiFi the overall cost is significantly lower, and we all expect WiMax equipment to get much cheaper as volumes increase.

Once we figured out how to disaggregate spectrum and manage its use to the satisfaction of the spectrum holder, the user and the FCC - the basic capability existed to turn spectrum into a commodity that could be traded on an open market. We believe this is by far the fairest and most efficient way to treat such a precious national resource. In effect the spectrum is always being used to provide the most economic benefit to the community.

Well it seems that I touched a lot of different topics here. Over the coming months we will discuss these and additional topics that catch our attention. Any thoughts or comments you may have are welcomed. Hopefully these will guide us to providing answers and information that keeps you coming back to visit.

-Peter Stanforth, CTO, Spectrum Bridge, Inc.

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