Globalstar's plan for an extra Wi-Fi band draws fire

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth backers say the proposal might hurt performance, but Globalstar says it won't

By , IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

However, Globalstar's plan would remove what has effectively been a "guard band" that protects Globalstar's licensed frequencies from Wi-Fi, the Wi-Fi Alliance said in a comment filed with the FCC. The OOBE (out of band emissions) rules associated with the proposal, which are designed to prevent interference between networks, could reduce Wi-Fi spectrum for users without the special band, the Alliance said. Specifically, those rules could force Wi-Fi users off Channel 11, the next Wi-Fi band down from Channel 14, the group said. Because channels overlap, there effectively are only three usable Wi-Fi channels in the 2.4GHz band, so losing Channel 11 would be significant.

Though it didn't ask the FCC to reject Globalstar's proposal, the Wi-Fi Alliance said it wants the agency to address several concerns as it studies the plan. For example, if new filters are needed to prevent interference with Globalstar's services, that could raise the cost of Wi-Fi products, the group said.

On Monday, Bluetooth's industry group also filed papers asking the FCC to take a close look at how the plan would affect its technology. Bluetooth devices are allowed to operate in part of the spectrum that Globalstar wants to use for its special Wi-Fi channel. The Bluetooth SIG is worried that Globalstar's plan will force Bluetooth devices to back off from those frequencies.

Meanwhile, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, a group of service providers that offer access over Wi-Fi and other unlicensed technologies, filed a comment with similar concerns to the Wi-Fi Alliance's.

Globalstar said on Monday that the Wi-Fi Alliance had misunderstood its proposal. Though Globalstar would be able to stop other service providers from introducing new services in the Channel 14 spectrum, it would coexist with uses already in the band, Globalstar's Ponder said. The plan would have no effect on any gear currently using that spectrum, and it wouldn't raise costs, he said.

"We're not aware of any updates or changes in any of the equipment currently operating on 1, 6 and 11 that would need to be done ... so that we can provide TLPS," Ponder said. Within the band itself, Bluetooth is the only wireless system Globalstar is aware of, and it could easily coexist with Globalstar's Wi-Fi channel without any changes, he said. Bluetooth has too short a range and too low a transmitting power to cause interference, he said.

Globalstar is due to file formal responses to the comments by Jan. 29.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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