Technical experts claim the nation may run out of the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi spectrum, resulting in a wireless traffic jam with more data being transported over Wi−Fi than any other medium. Most consumers encounter this traffic jam when attempting to download mobile content in densely populated settings, such as airport terminals, apartment buildings, college campuses, or a favorite coffee shop. If you have ever encountered this situation, you know these slow speeds can cause a lot of consumer dissatisfaction.
Unfortunately, experts claim the Wi-Fi traffic jam will grow worse in the near future as the perfect storm of Wi−Fi devices and consumer adoption each continue to grow exponentially. In 2012, a company by the name of Globalstar introduced a satellite spectrum, located adjacent to the Public Wi-Fi Band, which can be utilized to immediately increase the nation’s Wi-Fi capacity by a third, apparently, according to Globalstar, providing a much better wireless experience to the millions of consumers who now depend daily on mobile broadband capabilities for work and play.
Globalstar refers to this innovative new service as TLPS. It petitioned the FCC for authority to offer it in November, 2012. On November 1, 2013, the FCC took a positive step forward by issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to commence a formal proceeding that would allow Globalstar to deploy TLPS to the public.
According to Globalstar reports, their results show that TLPS can achieve 5 times the distance and 4 times the throughput capacity of public Wi-Fi.
However, not everyone, including the Hearing Industries Association (HIA) is on-board with Globalstar.
A Privately-Owned Wi-Fi Spectrum
According to numerous wireless experts, Globalstar wants exclusive use of this 5 GHz space, and asked the FCC for permission to build a private, single-channel domain based on holding a license for satellite use of the frequency — as opposed to the FCC opening up this spectrum for everyone to get a little more breathing room in 2.4 GHz.
For years, Globalstar has been aggressively promoting TLPS, touting its ability to provide a Wi-Fi “superhighway” in a band that wireless local area network (WLAN) professionals are trying to avoid, while also “trashing 5 GHz as a poor Wi-Fi choice based on antiquated thinking”.
The company is lining up “experts” who back its claims, but numerous independent internet and broadband experts have yet to agree with Globalstar’s proposal to the FCC. Although this turf battle between Globalstar, other broadband providers and the FCC has wide reaching consequences beyond the hearing aid industry, HIA has continued to strongly oppose it.
In a strongly worded statement HIA, expressed “grave concerns” about technical demonstrations that show Globalstar’s proposed use of the 2473-2483.5 MHz portion of the 2.4 GHz band will degrade the performance of hearing instruments by causing unacceptable packet loss.
According to a March 6 article in Fierce Wireless Tech, HIA told the FCC that “testing has yet to be performed to show whether the Globalstar system would interfere with access to the three Bluetooth LE advertising channels, which are needed to establish Bluetooth LE connections and without which a Bluetooth LE hearing aid could become inoperable.”
HIA Strongly Opposed, Cites Inadequate Testing
Per the March 6th piece in Fierce Wireless Tech, HIA argues that any testing should be done in places that are loud and where many people gather, such as airports, convention centers and trade shows, hospitals and hotels where people who use hearing aids are most in need of their assistance.
HIA went on to note that Globalstar’s proposed offer to provide an interference mitigation service is “completely inadequate” when considering consumer devices such as hearing aids. HIA stated further:
“Consumers will not realize that problems with their hearing aids arise from RF interference, and they certainly will not be in a position to discern the source of interference to their hearing aids and report it to Globalstar for remedy.”
Globalstar has conducted demonstrations, including one last year at the FCC’s own facilities, that it says show how TLPS will not disrupt other nearby devices in the 2.4 GHz band. However, the HIA and others say adequate testing has not been done. HIA says demonstrations by Globalstar to date have occurred in uncrowded spectral environments with unrealistically low traffic and occupancy levels on the Wi-Fi channels.
Last month, the company invited FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai and his legal advisor Brendan Carr, along with other key stakeholders, to visit the Washington School for Girls, where students were using Globalstar’s TLPS, along with Wi-Fi channels 1, 6 and 11. Globalstar said that deployment of TLPS has been a success and confirms the public interest benefits that would result with its TLPS deployment.
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) and Wi-Fi Alliance last year called on the FCC to drop the TLPS proceeding and deny Globalstar’s request. Despite the strong opposition, Globalstar continues to lobby for permission to offer TLPS.
In its November 2012 petition to the FCC, Globalstar committed to providing 20,000 TLPS access points to schools and other institutions. But HIA says that number “pales in comparison” to the millions of hearing aids that are sold each year with wireless features.