Cheap Chips for Next Wireless Frontier

Silicon in 60-GHz band promises speedy downloads

3 min read

Head north on the electromagnetic spectrum from the 5.7-gigahertz Wi-Fi band, go past dozens of dedicated satellite bands, and you’ll find 7 GHz of unlicensed bandwidth just sitting there. There’s enough bandwidth around 60GHz for a 2-gigabit-per-second communications link—fast enough to wirelessly join a high-definition DVD player and a high-definition TV, or to beam a movie to an iPod in a flash.

What’s needed for such applications, however, are radio transceiver chips cheap enough for consumer electronics. That means silicon, not the gallium arsenide used today at these frequencies.

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How the FCC Settles Radio-Spectrum Turf Wars

Remember the 5G-airport controversy? Here’s how such disputes play out

11 min read
This photo shows a man in the basket of a cherry picker working on an antenna as an airliner passes overhead.

The airline and cellular-phone industries have been at loggerheads over the possibility that 5G transmissions from antennas such as this one, located at Los Angeles International Airport, could interfere with the radar altimeters used in aircraft.

Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images
Blue

You’ve no doubt seen the scary headlines: Will 5G Cause Planes to Crash? They appeared late last year, after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration warned that new 5G services from AT&T and Verizon might interfere with the radar altimeters that airplane pilots rely on to land safely. Not true, said AT&T and Verizon, with the backing of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, which had authorized 5G. The altimeters are safe, they maintained. Air travelers didn’t know what to believe.

Another recent FCC decision had also created a controversy about public safety: okaying Wi-Fi devices in a 6-gigahertz frequency band long used by point-to-point microwave systems to carry safety-critical data. The microwave operators predicted that the Wi-Fi devices would disrupt their systems; the Wi-Fi interests insisted they would not. (As an attorney, I represented a microwave-industry group in the ensuing legal dispute.)

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