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FRIDAY - JANUARY 24, 2003 - ISSUE NO. 50

Dear Friends and Industry Colleagues,

So much has happened in the last week that I am only going to be able to hit the high points in this newsletter. It has been a very busy week. I hope you don't find too many typos in this issue since I have really had to rush to get it finished today.

I attended the Paging Technical Committee (PTC) meeting in Tampa, Florida. Although this is the first of their meetings that I have attended, I have been a member of one of the sub-committees for a couple of years. When the PCIA (Personal Communications Industry Association) lost interest in paging, the PTC found a new and valuable association with the good people at the AAPC (American Association of Paging Carriers). The PTC is made up of members who represent several of the paging carriers as well as many of the suppliers of wireless equipment and services.

This is my weekly newsletter about Wireless Data and Radio Paging. You are receiving this message because you have either communicated with me in the past about a wireless topic, or your address was included in another e-mail that I received on the same subject. This is not a SPAM. If you have received this message in error, or you are not interested in these topics, please click here, then click on “send” and you will be promptly removed from the mailing list. My apologies.

They meet periodically to discuss important technical issues that affect the whole industry, such as specifications and standards. It was wonderful to see many old friends and to make several new ones. It was very comforting to see first-hand, that the technical helm of our paging industry here in the USA, is in good hands. For example I already knew that Stephen Oshinsky, the president of the PTC was well respected by his peers for his expertise as an engineer, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that he is really a nice person as well. By the way, I want to go on record as supporting him for re-election as president of the group.

This wasn't a very large group of people, but still I didn't have near enough time to spend talking to all the ones I wanted to meet and get to know better. The first day consisted of meetings and discussions in the sub-committees. These covered all kinds of technical issues and they were handled very democratically so that no one company has too much influence on the way new products get designed and manufactured.

The next day was a meeting of the whole PTC group in which the committees presented their reports. It was heartwarming to see former competitors cooperating at this level. I think most of the paging companies have finally figured out that their real competitors are not other paging companies.

On Thursday (yesterday at this writing) the directors of the AAPC met for their board meeting. It was an honor to be invited to this meeting but an even greater one when Ted McNaught, their president, asked me to speak to the board. I told them that I heard one member of the PTC (not a vendor) say that he was afraid the PTC was like the band playing on the deck of the Titanic while it sank. I also said that I wasn't ready to give up yet. Since I have never been very bashful about expressing my options, as anyone who knows me will verify, I explained my feelings about Microsoft entering the paging business, and how I believe that Microsoft is validating the vast potential of the wireless data market and that this could be just the thing to save the day for us. Unfortunately, their choice of FM subcarrier channels to deliver their data was, in my opinion, a very poor choice. I am grateful for having had this opportunity to speak to them.

So, if anyone can get an appointment to speak to Microsoft on behalf of the paging industry, I volunteer to go along and do my part. If your paging company is not yet a member of the AAPC, I urge you to join and get active in helping us revitalize the paging industry. Now is the time for action. The same behavior of the past is not going to produce different results.

photo ptc meeting

This is a typical working-meeting of the PTC. Here Gagan Puranik of SkyTel, brings the group up to date on the fine points of the FLEXsuite family of protocols.

You can't see it in this photo, but most of these engineers have laptop computers in front of them, and several of them have little antennas sticking up in the air indicating that they are connected by wireless to the Internet and are instantly available to their home offices.

You may wonder if these were just long and boring presentations? I didn't see a single person fall asleep. Most of us found the presentations to be fascinating.


barry kanne photo
Barry Kanne
TGA Technologies, Inc.

Barry Kanne, President of TGA Technologies addresses the group at the PTC meeting. Barry has been involved in paging for many years and has earned our respect and admiration for his continued efforts to supply the industry with innovative new products.

Barry was showing his new SPARKGAP™ (ReFLEX controller) product. I told him that it was the most impressive new product that I have ever seen. I even joked with him and said that I didn't see how all the connectors on the back of a one-rack-unit piece of equipment could possibly be connected to something inside. So, he asked his engineers to open the unit so I could see what was inside, and this really is the most awe-inspiring piece of leading-edge-electronic design and industrial packaging that I have seen. It is truly a thing of beauty! A few years ago, all the functionality of this device would have required a whole rack full of equipment. It reminded me of the new Macintosh server. I will tell you more about it in future issues.

james dabbs photo

We all enjoyed some lively discussions about paging and wireless data technology. These are the people who make it happen. For example Vic Jensen and Doug Ayerst from Motorola briefed the group about several FLEX and ReFLEX issues. If Doug Ayerst seemed to know a lot about the ReFLEX code—he should—he wrote it!

James Dabbs of TGA Technologies (on the far left) is the author of the exciting new RXP networking protocol that will make it possible to connect dissimilar ReFLEX systems together and to implement the "Oasis" or "Campus" concept that so many are waiting for. He has done a terrific job with this valuable protocol. This is one of the most important advances in wireless technology since ReFLEX was first introduced.

amtel display photo

AMTEL WIRELESS brought a nice table-top display of their wireless solutions using ReFLEX to the PTC meeting in Tampa. I am sure it must have been interesting to the very engineers who designed and implemented ReFLEX. There are many possibilities here and they fall neatly into four categories of application and product:

Data Communications Level 1 A basic ReFLEX transceiver, sending and receiving serial RS-232 ASCII data.
Telemetry (Alarm and Control) Level 2 An enhanced ReFLEX transceiver, monitoring alarms from a remote site, and sending commands to the remote site.
Asset or Fleet Tracking Level 3 An enhanced ReFLEX transceiver, with the addition of a GPS module for the reporting of accurate locations to enable tracking.
Field Force Automation Level 4 An enhanced ReFLEX transceiver, with the addition of a GPS module and a handheld computer terminal for full automation of field service activities all the way from the customer's location back to the service company's back office.
More ideas on how these applications might help companies reduce operational costs and increase efficiency will follow in future newsletters. Please let me know if you have any ideas about this as well. AMTEL can generally turn a specification into a prototype in two to four weeks. If you have an interesting application in mind, give me a call so we can discuss it.

My comments on subcarrier paging in the last two newsletters have generated quite a bit of discussion. I was able to talk to some other colleagues who have had extensive experience with subcarrier paging technology, and took notes so I could share with you the solid technical reasons as to why this technology is a poor choice for delivering wireless data. Here are some more bullets (pun intended):

  • the actual power of the subcarrier is a small fraction of the FM broadcast transmitter's total output power
  • a radio antenna in a pager should be a 1/4 wavelength long to be really effective
    • 1/4 wavelength at 100 MHz is about 28 inches
    • 1/4 wavelength at 930 MHz is about 3 inches
    • which one would you like to try to squeeze into a wristwatch?
  • since an FM subcarrier receiver must scan the whole FM broadcast band from 88 to 108 MHz to find the transmitter with the right subcarrier, it is necessary to tune the antenna to maintain acceptable sensitivity across this wide range
    • tuning the antenna is difficult for one that is internal to the device, and very difficult for devices where it must be installed externally
  • overmodulation of the main channel of the FM broadcast transmitter will produce severe interference (splatter) in the subcarrier channel—this is a very common occurrence
  • the bandwidth of data transmitted in this channel is limited
  • the subcarrier channel does not use FM pre-emphasis
  • FM pre-emphasis during modulation, and then de-emphasis during the de-modulation process has always been used to overcome frequency response problems in FM radio modulation
  • use of the subcarrier channel in major market areas is very expensive
  • in fixed telemetry applications, the location of the device is important—finding a good spot is much more difficult at 100 MHz

(Corrections were made on 01/26/03 with strikethrough.)

I could go on and on, but I think by now you can see that the facts support my claims that an FM subcarrier is a poor choice for delivering wireless data. Technical details aside, the most compelling evidence is the total failure of businesses all over the world that have used this technology.


As planned, I attended the hockey game on Wednesday evening in Tampa. It was between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens. A very exciting game that ended tied 2 to 2 after a five minute overtime. That puts the Tampa Bay "Bolts" into a four-way tie with Pittsburgh, the New York Islanders, and Montreal for the final two playoff spots this year. I really enjoyed the game. It was my first live hockey match.

I still need to license a good FLEX decoding program written in “C” or get some consulting help from someone who can show another accomplished programmer some tricks and shortcuts to help get it done more quickly. If you know someone who can do this, please contact Brad Dye for a referral.
I am now a manufacturer representative (MR) for Vytek Wireless Products. (Formerly Sonik.) Please look at what they have to offer to the Paging and Wireless Messaging industry.

I would be happy to give you a price quotation on any of their products.

I need the remote control portion of a PURC base station. I would like to buy or borrow this part of the Motorola paging transmitter for some testing and experimentation. Please call me if you have one.
I am able to offer up to 20,000 units (per month) brand-new Nokia GSM phones (model #3390) to anyone from outside of the USA. These phones are all ESN unlocked. All phones must be exported, and are in original-new boxes and have never been used. Price is very low and depends on quantity—heavy discounts are possible. Let's make a deal.
Legacy Technology Solutions LLC—paging infrastructure repair with warranty. Please ask for Virgil Jarrard, President, and tell him Brad sent you. Toll-free voice: 1-877-436-8044 or voice: 972-436-8044, fax: 972-436-8944. They are located in the Dallas suburbs, and they sometimes have good deals on reconditioned paging equipment as well. Check with them for current product availability. You can send Virgil an e-mail by clicking on the Legacy name above.

If you have any wireless equipment that you would like to buy or sell, please let me know. Everything that is offered for sale in this newsletter is on the honor system. There is no charge for the listing, but if a sale is made, I ask the seller to send me a 10% commission, much the same as the voluntary payments that are requested on the Internet for shareware.



Best regards,

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Brad Dye
Wireless Data Consultant

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FLEX, ReFLEX, InFLEXion, and FLEXsuite are trademarks or registered trademarks of Motorola, Inc.
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