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Edholm's Law of Bandwidth

Telecommunications data rates are as predictable as Moore's Law

3 min read

Some telecommunications technologies, like cellular telephony, can be used as you move around freely. Others, like Wi-Fi, can be used while moving from place to place but aren't fully mobile. A third category can be used only with equipment tied to a specific location, as Ethernet is to your office's desktop computer. For lack of better terms, we'll call these three categories wireless, nomadic, and wireline.

It seems intuitive that the least mobile systems have the highest data rates. And it's obvious that all three get faster over time; we now routinely achieve cellular data rates that match those of the best dial-up modem speeds of the early 1990s.

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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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