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Can engineers put all of this into a single phone that will sell for a reasonable price and have decent battery life?

A Phone For All Networks

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Chairman of the FCC, Kevin J. Martin, has stated that he really wants consumers to be able to purchase a phone and then be able to use it on any network. He says that perhaps, for now, it should be a requirement on the 700 MHz spectrum, but left open the option of making it a requirement on all commercial wireless networks.


Yet the FCC appears to be setting up the 700 MHz auctions to include a large number of licenses based on geographic location. Estimates run into the hundreds and beyond, depending on whom you listen to. If Chairman Martin is to have his way, he either has to require every license holder of the new spectrum to employ the same wireless technology or require handsets to include all of the technologies that might be chosen for use on the 700 MHz band.


Today, the choices would include UMTS/HSPDA/HSUPA, CDMA12000 with EV-DO Rev A, and not much more. However, by the time the dust settles on the auction and the spectrum is cleared, the choices will have been expanded to include LTE (Long-Term Evolution-the follow-on to UMTS), UMB (Ultra-Mobility Broadband―the follow-on to CDMA2000 1xEV-DO Rev A and B), perhaps WiMAX (if the WiMAX groups have completed their work on an FDD version of WiMAX) and 802.20, if that technology is still around and has not been combined with the others.


In order for a phone to meet the intentions of Chairman Martin, it will need to operate on the 700 MHz portion of the spectrum and include all of the wireless technologies that will be used on the various networks. Further, if the incumbent network operators end up with spectrum as an adjunct to their existing networks, these devices will need to incorporate all of these bands and technologies as well. If we want a world phone, we will need to add other technologies and frequency bands.


The engineers who develop phones are some pretty amazing people. They have designed and built phones that support all of the following: 

  • Bluetooth
  • Wi-Fi (some vendors)
  • GPS (some vendors)
  • MediaFLO/DVB-H, ISDB-T (one-way mobile TV)
  • 700-MHz receive-only (for mobile TV on AT&Ts network)
  • 800 MHz (U.S. and elsewhere)
  • 900 MHz (Europe and elsewhere)
  • 1800 MHz (Europe and elsewhere)
  • 1900 MHz (U.S. and elsewhere)
  • 2100 MHz (Europe and elsewhere)
Each one of these frequency bands requires RF and antenna components, and the different technologies require sophisticated chips that operate on the various technologies.


On the CDMA side of the equation, the phones support all of the following: 

  • CDMA2000 1X, EV-DO Rev A
  • GPS
  • Bluetooth
  • Wi-Fi (some vendors)
  • 700-MHz receive-only (Verizon for mobile TV)
  • 800 MHz (U.S. and elsewhere)
  • 1900 MHz (U.S. and elsewhere) 

And today, to operate in Japan on either the UMTS or CDMA networks, you need a different phone that is configured differently.


Before the ink is dry and the checks have been cashed by the Federal Government, at least one new radio band (U.S), and one new local-area technology (USB 2.0) will also need to be incorporated into the devices that will have the new band and new local-area technologies built into them. So for the GSM/UMTS side of the house, we add 1700 and 2100 MHz to the mix, and USB 2.0 is based on
Ultra-Wideband technology, which operates in the above-3-GHZ range spreading its signal over several gigahertz of spectrum.


Add in the 700 MHz band, add in WiMAX (if it is, indeed capable of FDD by then), add in UMB for CDMA networks and LTE for GSM/UMTS networks, and we have a real challenge for the engineers. If we wanted a true world phone, we would have a list that looks like this: 

  • CDMA2000 1X and EV-DO
  • WiMAX
  • USB 2.0
  • Bluetooth
  • Wi-Fi (some vendors)
  • GPS (some vendors)
  • MediaFLO/DVB-H, ISDB-T (one-way mobile TV)
  • 700-MHz receive-only (for mobile TV on AT&Ts network)
  • 700 MHz (U.S. only for now)
  • 800 MHz (U.S. and elsewhere)
  • 900 MHz (Europe and elsewhere)
  • 1700 MHz (paired with 2100 MHz)
  • 1800 MHz (Europe and elsewhere)
  • 1900 MHz (U.S. and elsewhere)
  • 2100 MHz (Europe and elsewhere)
  • 2500 Mhz
Can engineers put all of this into a single phone that will sell for a reasonable price and have decent battery life? Remember that each frequency band requires an antenna (although antennas can be designed for multiple bands-within limits). Remember too, that each technology has to be accounted for, that the radio portion of the device has to be full duplex (being able to listen and talk at the same time) and most of the new handsets will be able to receive data and voice simultaneously. Meanwhile, GPS, Bluetooth and USB 2.0 all need to be functional. And this does not include a camera and/or video camera, MP3 player or any other technology that needs to be jammed into these small form factor devices.


Even if you decide to build a phone for a specific network, for example, T-Mobile, you will still need 1900 MHz, 1700 MHz, 700 MHz, Wi-Fi, GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSPDA/HSUPA, whatever TV system is chosen, and then all of the other features and functions including Bluetooth and USB 2.0 as well as a GPS receiver for location-based services.


An AT&T phone would be the most complex, especially if it is to be a world phone, and not far behind is a Verizon Wireless phone. What if you are a small operator and cannot buy these phones in large enough quantities to get a decent price? And what about the cheap phones on the market today? In parts of the world, without phone buy-downs, we are seeing sub-$50 phones on both GSM/UMTS and CDMA systems. But they have limited capabilities beyond the markets they are designed to serve.


Under Chairman Martin's plan, I could go into a store and buy a phone, any phone I wanted, and activate it on the network of my choice. If I have learned one thing over the years in working with handset vendors and network operators it is this: Just because a phone has FCC type acceptance does not mean it will work, even on the network for which it was designed.


Think back to the first time you tried to make a PC work on a network or attach to a Wi-Fi access point. If all of the pieces and parts were not perfectly aligned, you weren't able to make a connection and troubleshooting the problems took a long time, usually requiring the intervention of someone else to help troubleshoot the problems. There is a good reason why phones, today, have to be FCC type accepted AND approved for use on a given network.


Chairman Martin, I have one question for you: If you do require device open access on a portion of the 700 MHz band, and that requires someone to build special phones in order to comply (700 MHz-only with multiple technologies embedded), how much do you think that phone will cost at retail, and how many of them do you think would be sold?


Andrew M. Seybold

COMMENTS: This is an archived post. Commenting is no longer available.

Chris Coles - 07/18/2007 04:11:34


I believe that the problem the FCC and Martin have is that the FCC has a problem with some US patents that grant rights of transmission and that is what is driving Martin down the road he is on today. What the FCC is struggling with is that there are several US telecoms patents that have been granted that, as a part of their claims, have been granted the right to transmit over any network. They, the FCC, like any other infringing party, have to pay a royalty to the patent holder as they do not have a license to grant their own license to transmit in those circumstances. As I see it they are thus trying to get around the patents by trying to make the auction a sale of an open system. The inventor will still have a right to a royalty on the license sale proceeds and he will still end up being paid for his rights. The wheels of justice move ever so slow, but they will get there in the end.

For the record, this is a part of my recent submission to the FCC

Federal Communications Commission

445 12th Street, S.W.

Washington DC 20554 Thursday June 7th, 2007

Electronic Submission via the FCC ECFS comment filing system

Dear Sirs,

Comment On Google Proposals Regarding Service Rules for 700MHz Band

Spectrum WT Docket No. 06-150; WT Docket No. 06-169; PS Docket No. 06-229; WT Docket No. 96-86

First of all I remind you of my letter to Michael K. Powell dated October 26, 2001 on the letterhead of GPNS Corporation under the CC Docket No. 94-102 in which we stated:

“but we also have been granted Patent rights by another branch of Government that impinges upon the workings of the FCC. We enjoy “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale or selling…”

We ask if there has been adequate consideration of the matter of the grant of licenses.

1. Whether for transmission between a portable wireless transmitter and a base station.

2. Or, for example, location and monitoring Services.

Have potential licensees, (in particular where it must have been known from the outset, that there would be conflict with the already granted US patent rights that give us now our intellectual property base), been kept informed that our right to grant a license might well impinge upon the license being sold by the FCC?

Has consideration been given to the need to recompense us for the royalty income that will entail from the grant of such licenses?”

The FCC never did answer the questions raised, and considering the potentially very substantial sums of money involved; perhaps this is an appropriate moment to do so before the next auction being mooted of the 700 MHz spectrum?

The patents in question, 5,712,679 6,181,373 and 6,469,735 which have been assigned to my holding company Chris Coles Holdings Inc.

Jason Devitt - 07/18/2007 16:05:09


There's a very big difference between the 'right to attach' - the original Carterfone decision - and mandating that *all* mobile phones must work across *all* mobile networks.

If consumers had the right to attach a mobile phone to Verizon's network, provided that it met certain safety standards, then I could build a phone that worked across both CDMA and GSM networks and sell it to them. It's a very simple example of a product that some consumers would love to have - recall that more than 25% of consumers switch networks *primarily* to get better coverage - but that is not possible without the right to attach.

Other companies would be free to offer CDMA-only phones that were cheaper and simpler than mine and consumers would be free to buy them. But some - I think many - would be interested in buying a multi-network device if it were available.

To ensure that devices will work properly on Verizon's network, all we need is for Verizon to publish the standards that handsets must meet - those standards are currently secret - and accept certification by third-party labs.

I am not picking on Verizon. I am just illustrating the difference between the right to attach and the obligation to make everything interoperable.


Andrew Seybold - 07/19/2007 11:10:05

Jason--first of all if you remember the orginal Carterfone decesion you will also remember that when we "attached" to the AT&T network we had to have an isolation block installed by the phone company to protect their network from devices that might harm them--it is not different today, with wireless devices which can have content and applications side loaded onto them, and applications downloaded over the wireless network.
I have seen wireless networks come to their knees because of a single device, a number of year ago the RAM Mobile data network was rendered useless by a single wireless modem that was trying, repeatedly, to attach to the server which handled the disptach of the vehicle, the number of retries was incredible and an entire section of the network was inoperable for almost 24 hours until they found the vehicle and disabled the modem.
In today's world the networks are more secure but every device that is put on the networks is tested and verified beyound what the FCC requires.
As for people changing networks--you have a point but again I would like to point out that just because a network is GSM does not necessary mean that a GSM phone will be able to work accross that network. In most cases it can but not always--and while you are not picking on Verizon, their tests are conducted both in their labs in the the field, as with networks they have different vendors provding different portions of the infrastructure and they field test every phone in various parts of the Country to make sure there are no glitches on the network--and they have found some over the years which have then been corrected.

Jim Donovan - 07/19/2007 18:03:26

The US system is a shambles of competing technologies. The Europeans got it right, on the whole, when they standardised on GSM and its derivatives. It wasn't the technology per se. It was the GSM regulatory and business framework that was the key - encouraging a pro-consumer, pro-competition environment which makes it easy to roam and easy to switch and (relatively) easy to retail on top of other networks. Not perfect, but not shabby. However, I can't see the US biting the bullet and moving to such a regime, Gaining a mandate and then implementing it would be just too bloody.

Andrew Seybold - 07/19/2007 18:20:42

Jim--Europe got it right? By requiring a specfic technology in a specifc piece of the spectrum? Why then do Europeans pay more than twice as much for wireless services than we do in the U.S?
The Japaneese have it right in my book--you get a license and you pay yearly per MHz fee plus a per device fee (is a one time fee I believe) they do not dictate the technology but the per MHz change makes each network operator use the best and most effiicent technology around.
Do you think that what the EU just did, making DVB-H the ONLY TV technology permitted in Europe is the best possible solution for Europeans? I don't and I think that one of the things that makes great competition is the ability to each network operator to make thier own technology decisions.

Jim Donovan - 07/20/2007 18:36:40

All good points, but getting the best technology is not the issue, especially if it means a multi-year lock-in to an effective monopoly. It's about customers feeling free to make choices. Not just the big technology one - which phone do I buy? - but the everyday ones, like which network do I use today? While the Europeans' system has its flaws, on the whole, I don't think they'd swap it for one that gives less customer choice day by day. It's that everyday freedom that Kevin Martin would like.

Andrew Seybold - 07/20/2007 20:33:29

Jim--you miss an important point here--spectrum is a finite resource and it is incumbant on carriers to be able to maximize their return on investment while at the same time providing their customers the best possible service--choice is what is needed--in the future when all technologies operate in 1.25 MHz of spectum up to 20 MHz of spectrum perhaps it might not be so important but today, UMTS requires 5 MHz of specturm and CDMA requires 1.25 MHz, if you look at the band plans, and then do the math there are advantagles to both--for example you canot use UMTS in the A and B band (850 MH) spectrum becuase the spectrum is only 1.25 MHz, so if you are a GSM/UMTS provider in the United States, that spectrum has to stay GSM until LTE or UMB is released in 2010 or 2011, if, however, you are a CDMA operator, that 1.25 MHz of spectrum is another carrier you can install and use.