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Video and Audio Enabler WebRTC Near Release

A simple way to turn anything with an Internet connection into a peer-to-peer video calling tool

4 min read
Photo of computer monitor
Photo: Dimitri Vervitsiotis/Getty Images

24 October 2012—Two years ago, a handful of the world’s largest technology companies met at Google’s Mountain View, Calif., campus to devise a new peer-to-peer approach to communications. Participants at the October meeting, including representatives from Apple, Cisco, Microsoft, Mozilla, Opera, and Skype, kicked off an effort known as WebRTC to create open standards for real-time video, audio, and data communication via an Internet browser.

The goal of the new standards is to make it easy for developers with little to no knowledge of telephony protocols to add communications capabilities to anything with an Internet connection. Though the standards are still months away from being finalized, ordinary users will be able to start kicking the tires on the new technology—albeit with some restrictions—in November, when Google releases the next version of the Chrome browser, and in January, using the new Firefox browser.

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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

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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