An interesting wrinkle with cognitive radio actually being tested in the real world…

A Cell-Phone Network without a License

By Tom Simonite

As excerpted from the link above,

While most radios can only use frequencies that are completely clear, xG’s radios can unlock more free space by analyzing channels whose use varies over time, Rotondo says. Signals can then be inserted in between bursts of activity from a device using that channel.

“Where a more conventional radio would see a wall of signals, we are able to put our packets in between them and move around between those gaps,” he explains. “Using that method, we find that even in an urban area, the 900-megahertz band is really only around 15 percent occupied at any time.”

Here’s another snippet from an expert who I have an incredible amount of respect for,

Craig Mathias, an analyst with the Farpoint Group, which specializes in the wireless industry, has inspected the Fort Lauderdale network. “It really is just like using a regular cellular system, even though the technology is so different,” he says.

The potential for cognitive radio to make better use of spectrum has motivated many companies and academic labs to work on the technology in recent years, says Mathias. “The real advance of xG’s system is that it can be deployed in exactly the same way as a conventional cell-phone network,” he says. But exactly how xG will bring the technology to market is unclear. “One option may be for a carrier to use this in an area or market where they don’t have spectrum, or to serve rural areas without coverage.”

As a personal commentary on this topic, we live in an age where our technology is beginning to eclipse our society’s ability to govern it. From my perspective, this isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, it simply is.

The technology being discussed in the above article would have been impossible (or perhaps impractical) a half century ago, certainly from a cost-effectiveness standpoint.

With CPU processing power increasing while cost and size are decreasing, the ability for us to leverage computing power in ways never before thought of is quickly becoming a reality.

Arun Mehta mentioned on his awesome mailing list that Wifi was given “garbage spectrum, and it came up gold” which is a fairly accurate assessment. Conversely, in my not-so-humble opinion, it is also uncontrollable and that lack of control makes it difficult for any investor to monetize it.

I submit that it isn’t a technology issue we are discussing here, it is a policy and business model that needs to be reworked or reinvented. I would further posit that inventing and deploying the technology will be far easier than changing a political system – forget trying to change entrenched money.

But there is cause for hope, ironically brought to us courtesy of this economic downturn and the inability of big business to turn a large enough profit to keep their greed satiated. The evolution in communications will more likely be sparked due to the business community not being able to justify their investments while the need for communications to be put in place remains.

Therefore, to my unorthodox way of thinking, the question we should be asking is, how do we accelerate the oncoming telecommunications crash so that we can implement the solution we all know if coming?

(Hat Tip to David Isenberg’s Fast Fail policy)

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