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FRIDAY - JANUARY 31, 2003 - ISSUE NO. 51

Dear Friends and Industry Colleagues,

I hope you have had a good week. I am pleased to welcome several new subscribers with this issue.

Discussion about Microsoft entering the paging business—with considerable controversy—has continued throughout the week. Everyone who remembered the history of the many failed businesses that used analog subcarrier FM broadcasting argued that it was a very bad choice for Microsoft. But wait, before we go too far with this debate, let's find out what they are really doing. Maybe this is not analog subcarrier FM at all. It could be digital, and that would change everything. More on this topic follows ahead.
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.
A preview of this week's newsletter has been on the web all week. It has been re-written about a million times. I received several interesting e-mails and phone calls from readers, and each time added a little more to the newsletter. It has finally evolved into it's present form. If you are interested in paging I think you will enjoy all of the news and information included in this issue. I am going to cut two very interesting reader responses out of the e-mailed version, but they will be included in the version saved in the newsletter archive on my web site. It was just getting too long and most of the Microsoft Exchange servers would reject it for exceeding their size limit. I do compact the code before I send the newsletter to make it a little easier for those who are using relatively slow dial-up connections. Many thanks to everyone who contributed information this week. Please forward your copy of this issue to a friend or co-worker.

NextWave can keep licenses

Jan. 27, 2003 11:00 AM EST

WASHINGTON—Bankrupt NextWave Telecom Inc. can keep its licenses, said the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.

In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court agreed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the Federal Communications Commission could not take back NextWave’s PCS C- and F-block licenses because they are protected by the Bankruptcy Code.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in 2001 that the Federal Communications Commission erred when it canceled, reallocated and re-auctioned NextWave’s 90 PCS C- and F-block licenses.

The D.C. Circuit said the licenses were protected under the automatic stay provisions of the Bankruptcy Code and that NextWave was not required to make payments while it was in bankruptcy. The FCC challenged that opinion before the Supreme Court. The court heard oral argument in the case in October.

Source: RCR Wireless News

Microsoft signs deals with Vodafone, Bell Mobility

Jan. 30, 2003 1:05 PM EST
REDMOND, Wash.—Microsoft Corp. signed deals with Vodafone and Bell Mobility to offer its range of wireless content services, further moves by the company to expand its MSN services into the wireless world.

Under the Vodafone agreement, MSN Hotmail and MSN Messenger will be available to U.K. users through text messaging services starting in the spring. Under the Canadian deal, Bell Mobility will offer the full suite of MSN services to its customers, including text messaging for Hotmail and Messenger and WAP browsing.

Microsoft has signed deals with 22 mobile operators across the world for its MSN services. Verizon Wireless has an extensive deal with the company to brand its wireless services as VZW with MSN.

Source: RCR Wireless News


Look Jane, see SPOT right arrow spot board photo Will SPOT run?

National Semiconductor Delivers Complete Solution for Microsoft's New Smart Personal Objects Technology Initiative

At the heart of the solution are two custom integrated circuits. One is a custom baseband processor with digital signal processing (DSP) accelerators built on an industry-standard ARM7 core. The other is a custom-designed radio chip. The first devices equipped with SPOT will be wristwatches from leading sports and fashion watch manufacturers.  Each SPOT-enabled watch has a unique built-in personalized reception code that allows the user to receive up-to-date Web-based information such as stock quotes, sports scores, weather, traffic and other customizable messages.

Source: National Semiconductor

[ Humor explained: Since this newsletter goes all over the world, I thought that I better explain that many American kids learned to read with a story about Dick, Jane, and their dog Spot. ]

Seeing SPOTs: Microsoft uses FM in new generation of gadgets

Mitchell's team approached SCA Data Systems, a company in Santa Monica, that made signal generators for the sub-carrier band. SCA licensed its architecture and helped Microsoft develop a protocol for sending signals over the 67-kilohertz sub-carrier band of FM radio, the same channel that carries Muzak.

Microsoft dubbed its protocol DirectBand, and then enlisted chip maker National Semiconductor of Santa Clara to create radio chips that could receive the signals and then process the data in them for display on the watch. Over two years, National engineers refined the concept and came up with seven tiny chips that fit on a flat circuit board no bigger than a quarter.

National created a microprocessor with an Arm 7 core -- commonly used in low-power chips -- running at a speed of 28 megahertz, with 512 kilobytes of read-only memory and 384 kilobytes of dynamic random access memory. That is more than eight times the memory and four times the speed of the original IBM PC introduced in 1981. The SPOT software is based on a form of the old Basic operating system and the programs are translated into .Net byte codes, or instructions that are compatible with Microsoft's .Net initiative, that are downloaded onto the watch.

Microsoft had to figure out how much data could be transferred in a given time without requiring so much power that the watch would have to have a large battery. It settled on a data rate of 12 kilobits per second after cleaning up the signal through a process called error correction. That's much slower than a typical analog modem -- too slow to transmit video, for instance -- but it is continuous and sufficient to personalize the watch. In a given day, for instance, more than 125 megabytes can be transferred in the radio broadcasts.

Once Microsoft had its radio figured out, it had to find ways to transmit the signal. So it secretly cut deals with FM radio stations around the country to lease the sub-carrier spectrum. That gave Microsoft enough coverage to hit about 80 percent of the country, and all major metropolitan areas.

It will use SCA to build generators that must be installed at each radio station in order to broadcast the DirectBand signals.


Some more hints about how it might work

Radio Waves
The chip. . . uses "space-time diversity," . . .which basically means that data can be collected in small chunks over a period of time and in different locations. That means it requires only a low bandwidth connection, and if users are in an area where FM coverage is spotty the device can wait until the user has moved to a better coverage area. . .


[ What does this all mean? This looks like they have come up with something new. Do you have any ideas? Let's get some more dialogue going about this. ]

Microsoft and watch-making partners announce SPOT watches

Mitchell (Microsoft): Smart Personal Objects Technology devices are built on a brand new computing platform incubated in Microsoft Research (MSR). Microsoft worked with National Semiconductor to develop a chipset, which consists of an application chip and a tiny radio frequency receiver. The platform has been optimized for low power draw, miniaturization and low cost. To provide connectivity to SPOT devices, Microsoft created DirectBand, a set of radio technologies that enables the transmission of Web-based information to smart objects. DirectBand includes the custom radio receiver chip, a nationwide wide-area network based on FM subcarrier technology and new radio protocols created specifically to meet the unique communication requirements of smart objects.

Source: EarthVillage

Let's think out of the box

Please be aware that Microsoft could be better informed about the weak points of analog FM subcarrier transmission than we give them credit for. They might have something up their sleeve such as a new digital FM broadcasting protocol which would overcome the defects of analog FM-subcarrier transmission. Or maybe something like IEEE 802.11x or Bluetooth. Or even their own version of a "close-in" short-range RF protocol. This is just a suspicion that I am investigating and discussing off-line with some of my readers and clients. As we continue talking about this, we suspect that there is a lot more to this new SPOT initiative than what has been made public. Microsoft has been working on this project for a least two or three years, maybe longer, and has a lot of very smart people involved. The more we look into this, the more it looks like they may have something really revolutionary like OFDM. They may very well have skipped analog and gone directly to digital. I am sure we will be hearing more about how the SPOT chip works in the coming days and weeks. They have mentioned "space-time diversity" and that sounds like it might be orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing or some other DSP-based scheme. I don't claim to understand all the details of how this new technology works and so will rely on some of our scientist-readers to explain it to me. So far I am still guessing.

"Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) is a method of digital modulation in which a signal is split into several narrowband channels at different frequencies. The technology was first conceived in the 1960s and 1970s during research into minimizing interference among channels near each other in frequency. In some respects, OFDM is similar to conventional frequency-division multiplexing (FDM). The difference lies in the way in which the signals are modulated and demodulated. Priority is given to minimizing the interference, or crosstalk , among the channels and symbols comprising the data stream. Less importance is placed on perfecting individual channels. OFDM is used in European digital audio broadcast services. The technology lends itself to digital television , and is being considered as a method of obtaining high-speed digital data transmission over conventional telephone lines. It is also used in wireless local area networks." Source:

One thing I remain convinced about is the vast potential of the whole wireless data market. The huge force of Microsoft moving into this arena probably won't hurt the traditional paging business. In the long run, there will be many new-spin-off business opportunities. Microsoft is not the only big and powerful company that will want to get on the band wagon to offer wireless solutions. The paging industry is in a good position to provide that "last mile" of connection and we are only limited by our imagination. We can do it better, faster, and cheaper—so we just need to get the word out that we are alive and well. It will be a long time before anyone has more transmitters, or a more effective system to deliver wireless data than we do, and we have it right now.

At my last high school class reunion I was surprised to hear that there had been a rumor going around that I had been killed in a boating accident in Florida. I was happy to be able to quote Mark Twain and say: "The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated." So I propose that we get the message out that paging is not dead, in fact we are just getting started! This new Microsoft emphasis will certainly give us the opportunity to do so. Remember, a rising tide raises all boats. We continue to move toward the day when our toaster and refrigerator will have their own IP addresses. One philosopher said that the crust of the earth does not contain enough metal, to make enough wire, to meet the networking needs of the future. We must do it with wireless.

More stuff about SPOT

If you want to investigate SPOT FM Subcarrier paging further, some links follow:

The Company that will carry the SCA content

Microsoft's SPOT technology has humble origins

Reiter's Wireless Data Web Log

The Company Developing the SPOT Hardware for Microsoft

MS bids for lucrative wristwatch, fridge magnet markets (Very good article form the UK.)

Watching the Microsoft Watch

News, Sports, and Weather on Your Wristwatch

Microsoft Presents Smart Personal Objects Technology

The Black Watch—Sinclair Radionics, 1975

My readers keep me honest

Brad, in your most recent news letter you stated, "FM pre-emphasis during modulation, and then de-emphasis during the demodulation process has always been used to overcome frequency response problems in FM radio modulation."

For the first 20 years of my radio career I worked in broadcasting and most often on FM transmitters. You are correct the effective use of a sub carrier is difficult. The stereo light on your receiver that tends to flicker when the signal is weak or experiencing multipath, is the indication of the 19 kHz stereo pilot or subcarrier. Long before the main channel starts to degrade the pilot at 19 kHz is unstable so what about the subcarrier at 67kHz. One station I worked for operated 67 kW ERP from 5000 feet above LA. We were trying to provide background music to fixed antennas on the roofs of stores and alike. (Not pockets inside buildings.) It worked but was always a problem. Unless subcarrier paging has a real good multiple receiver (not scanning) to provide parallel data I think it will be a bust.

As for the Pre-emphasis, it is used to overcome the noise (hiss) that is inherent in an FM system. Since the amount of energy that is in normal sound at the high end is down about 15 dB a filter boosts the high end energy (actually cuts the low end) and passes it through the modulator and demodulator at the same level as the low component then another filter in the receiver restores the band pass to flat. Pre and de-emphasis don't have any thing to do with bandpass adjusting when you look from the microphone to speaker in that their net is zero.

As I recall we ran a 25 microsecond pre-emphasis on the background music system but would expect the digital system would be operating modem tones into the subcarrier and I don't think the white noise would be a matter. I do think the effect of multipath will kill them though. Another issue, a highly rated FM operator in a major city there is a major push to be the highest rated and every program manager believes to be the highest rated you must be the loudest. An FM Sub carrier will eat up 8 to 10% of the modulation. I saw our GM cave into the program director and not renew a contract worth $70,000 annually thinking he could be that much louder and gain that much more for his program. No one ever knew how that one turned out. (Program directors and Paging sales managers come from the same school.)

I think Microsoft should stick to software and allow an RF engineer to design the distribution system. Subcarrier paging = DOS 1.02

Keep up the good work,

John Parmalee


Best of the season to you and I hope that you have a good New Year.

I have some thoughts about the whole wireless business and I think that is what I am going to concentrate my efforts on. Maybe when you are in Florida you can see what the chances are of re-building the wireless businesses. I heard once that the definition of insanity is "Doing the same things and expecting a different outcome." [Bill Clinton]

I am convinced that the reason that most wireless companies are not doing that well is they want to be all things to all people. I read in your article that Microsoft has their own network out there using sub carrier paging. It looks like they also want to provide the content and no doubt bill the end client. I know that Microsoft has a lot of money to spend, but would it not make sense for them to use an existing nationwide network? Why don't they? Well the networks would probably not be too bad off selling characters in bulk blocks, say $10 for 10,000 characters, just a number I picked out of the air. Then Microsoft could use the information services cap codes set aside in FLEX and get charged only pennies for sending out a message nationwide.

Carriers don't want to do this because they want the customer. Why make it easier for Microsoft? Well when you think of the potential, all networks would just have to do, is provide networks as well as a secure access to their RF network where airtime is bought in the 100 of thousands of characters. No administration or billing department—just spare equipment and techs to keep it all running. Then send out 1,000's of bills to smaller aggregators, what a concept!

The wireless industry has to look at other industries and look at why they have become successful. Oil companies, the companies that drill for oil don't directly sell the gasoline, nor the refineries, to the end user. In fact, when was the last time that a tanker to went to refuel the station, and came up and asked the license numbers of all the cars they filled up today. There is a distribution system set up. They know that gas is the commodity not the number of cars they fill up. One is directly proportional to the other but not totally dependant.

The problem as I see it is, the wireless industry looks at the customer as being the commodity when really it is airtime. This relates to number of talk minutes consumed or number of characters sent in the data world. Voice is far more expensive to support yet I find that the data models are way over priced when comparing them to voice. Why is this? The reason is the networks want to pay for their investment in the shortest time possible so they raise the data rates which lowers the acceptance rate and the network and then then say, "See I told you it wouldn't sell" and then they try to find other ways of attracting more customers. Shouldn't they be trying to fill up the spectrum with good paying customers? You would think so.

Microsoft can afford to throw all sorts of money at the network because they have money to burn. They know the wireless business is full of sales people trying to get customers and that the whole industry is fractured. In the old days, you would could take over a country, when it was full of internal strife. Today that is when you take over an industry. The wireless industry is prime for the picking because it does not even know what its commodity is.

ITMS (It's The Message Stupid), A term that I have just started coining. One way data communications formerly known as "Paging" has to start leveraging its strengths. We also have to realize that paging is similar to FM radio broadcasts but its receivers are more selective than traditional radio. When wireless telephones came into existence did Radio and TV die? —No! So just because you can talk with two-way data it does not mean that one way data will disappear. Carriers with large investments in two-way networks would like to see it die but it is here to stay.

I think the small players will play an increasingly large part in the happiness of the end user as well as the profitability of the carriers. However the correct model to do this in not out there today.

When will it be? I don't have the answers. I only know that the longer we wait the tougher it is going to be.

Respectfully submitted,

Frank Dijker

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 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.

Friends in Mexico need 1,000+ NEC Vue 900 MHz FLEX Alphanumeric display pagers.
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.

I also have some great deals on refurbished phones. They are Samsung, LG, and Motorola, refurbished CDMA phones.

Since this newsletter is primarily for paging and wireless data, I don't have many e-mail addresses for contacts in cell phone companies. If my friends in Latin America could send me some contacts, I would appreciate it very much.

Tomando en cuenta que yo trabajo principalmente en paging, no tengo muchos contactos en la industria celular en América Latina. Les voy a agradecer mucho si me puedan enviar unos direcciones e-mail para poder ofrecer a ellos estos teléfonos refabricados.

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.
It has been suggested that we start a column about "the good old days" of paging. I like the idea. So while I dedicate my efforts to writing about "the good new days" of paging, I invite some of you old timers to send me some tales that I can use in a NOSTALGIA column. I am sure fellow readers would enjoy this sort of thing. Another suggestion is for an auction section. What do you think?


Best regards,

BFD signature
Brad Dye
Wireless Data Consultant

Consulting & Job search left arrow click here


The illiterate of the future are not those that cannot read or write. They are those that can not learn, unlearn, relearn.

—Alvin Toffler

Much as we may wish to make a new beginning, some part of us resists doing so as though we were making the first step toward disaster.

—William Bridges

FLEX, ReFLEX, InFLEXion, and FLEXsuite are trademarks or registered trademarks of Motorola, Inc.
CreataLink is a trademark of SmartSynch Communications Corp. This trademark was formerly owned by Motorola.
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