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Regulators tackle wireless broadband issues

The wireless broadband industry is picking up more support from federal regulators who are trying to more efficiently manage radio spectrum.

WASHINGTON, D.C.--Various companies congregated Wednesday to hear from federal regulators about what is being done to promote the wireless broadband industry.

The growth of the wireless broadband industry is a step toward helping President Bush reach his goal of making high-speed Internet access available to all Americans by 2007. But the industry is still in its infancy, and the groundwork for the technologies that are expected to be most widely used, such as WiMax, are still being laid out.

Policy-makers from the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration voiced their perspective on the matter at the WCA 2004 conference here. The regulators are trying to more efficiently manage radio spectrum to encourage private companies to bring broadband to the shrinking number of Americans who do not have it.

"Given that (spectrum) is a finite is very, very valuable," said Kathleen Abernathy, a commissioner with the FCC.

The FCC has already been working to change the allocation of spectrum and is working on a policy that's productive for broadband growth. The agency is looking at reallocating spectrum for broadcast television to wireless and expanding bands in the 5GHz range.

The FCC is expected to meet June 10 to discuss reforming the 2.5GHz radio bands to 2.7GHz and making it available for licensed wireless broadband use.

Cable and DSL services have helped bring broadband access to about 26.9 million Americans--a significant increase from just a couple of years ago. But wireless services are expected to dramatically improve that growth, because the technology will make it faster and cheaper for carriers to install and manage networks.

"This technology gives companies significant advantages when it comes to deployments, because you don't have to set up a new there isn't a lot of tearing up of streets needed to set up networks," said Joe English, a WiMax campaign manager for chipmaker Intel.

Still, altering spectrum regulations is not an easy process. The allocation of spectrum has been a particularly touchy issue in the technology and communications industries. Critics have complained that spectrum has been poorly distributed, stifling innovation. With new wireless technologies on the way, such as EvDO (Evolution Data Only) and WiMax, issues like interference and limited range will likely become more of a problem.

"Many of the regulatory issues are quite complicated," Andrew Kreig, president of the WCA, told conference attendees.