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RULEMAKING OFFERS SPECTRUM FOR WIRELESS INTERNET ACCESS

WASHINGTON-A notice of proposed rulemaking forwarded by the Federal Communications Commission Thursday could, if adopted, provide 350 megahertz of spectrum for Part 15 unlicensed 25-megabit/second links to multimedia data services.

The NPRM was in response to petitions submitted last year by the Wireless Information Networks Forum and Apple Computer Inc. Both were looking for spectrum on which to provide a broad range of services via unlicensed equipment called NII/SUPERNet devices. The most immediate beneficiary of what will come to be short-range wireless local area networks will be schools, hospitals and libraries, which could take advantage of the devices to hook into the Internet and other databases wirelessly via transceiver-equipped laptop or desktop computers linked to a host server operating within 300 feet. The number of “dumb terminals” connected to the server could be almost infinite because of the limits on power, out-of-band emissions and a “listen before talk” spectrum-reuse standard.

The commission proposed to allocate channels at 5.15-5.35 GHz and 5.725-5.875 GHz. Only the most minimal of technical standards will be necessary because the units that will be developed for use on the two bands will be low-powered and should not cause interference to others on the shared channels. Incumbents on the bands include aviation and maritime radar, radiolocation services and amateur radio licensees.

There was some question as to whether the new data services would be used by schools, businesses and other campus settings to bypass the wireline network. According to FCC officials, the range is short and signals cannot penetrate walls or glass. In addition, any service provided through the server will be interconnected with the local exchange service somewhere.

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