Senate passes bill with 700 MHz amendment attached

The U.S. Senate last month voted overwhelmingly to pass a bill addressing many concerns raised by the 9/11 Commission, including an amendment forged last week that is designed to ensure that public-safety entities gain access to 24 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band on Jan. 1, 2008.

Published reports indicated the Senate approved the National Intelligence Reform Act by a 96-2 margin. Senate Commerce Committee spokesman David Wonnenberg confirmed that the 700 MHz amendment offered by Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) was included in the measure.

Under the amendment, broadcasters would be required to clear spectrum currently used for analog TV channels 63, 64, 68 and 69 by Jan. 1, 2008, when public-safety entities could use the airwaves if they make a “bonafide request” for the airwaves.

Public-safety officials hailed the amendment — supported by the influential National Association of Broadcasters — as a significant policy change because it would provide public-safety groups with a certain date for receiving the much-wanted spectrum if it becomes law. Current law and some other legislative efforts would have left the matter in limbo.

“Pretty much, it says public safety will get the spectrum in 2008,” said Yucel Ors, spokesman for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials. “It's a victory for public safety.”

While helpful to public safety, the Senate amendment would not provide any clarity for commercial wireless providers that are anxious to use the valuable airwaves for advanced wireless services.

The 9/11 legislation has been sent to a conference committee, where some House members have advocated delivering the 700 MHz spectrum sooner than called for in the Senate version. Meanwhile, the White House has expressed its opposition to a $1 billion subsidy plan included in the Senate version to help clear broadcasters from the airwaves.

Most analysts expect Congress to settle on final language during its “lame-duck” session conducted after the November elections.
— Donny Jackson

Thales clears major JTRS milestone

Thales announced that it recently completed the early operational assessment (EOA) for the development of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Cluster 2 hand-held radio. The EOA is a user-led field evaluation of production hardware used in the development of JTRS Cluster radios. Thales is adapting its MBITR software-defined radio to comply with JTRS SCA version 2.2 and its associated security supplement, the company said. The Software Communications Architecture is a set of specifications that govern the interaction of hardware and software components in a software-defined radio and control the radio's functions.

Kenwood donates radios to Mexico Red Cross

Kenwood Communications said it has donated 100 VHF repeaters, 50 mobile radios and 100 portable radios to the Red Cross of Mexico. The donation was made through Syscom, a Kenwood distributor. The Red Cross said the donation would enable it to provide radio communications to all of its delegations throughout the country.

FCC seeks input on possible 800 MHz order changes

The FCC has asked interested parties to comment on the abundant number of ex partes filed in the 800 MHz reband order, including Nextel Communications' request to alter the amount of money it would pay in the rebanding process.

Under the order, Nextel would be required to contribute $4.8 billion assets to reband the 800 MHz airwaves to mitigate interference that affects first-responder communications. But the carrier said in September that it discovered an error in the calculations the FCC used to determine the value of the spectrum Nextel would contribute to the rebanding process.

Motorola certifies voice privacy solutions from Transcrypt

EFJ Inc. announced that Motorola has certified Transcrypt International's voice privacy solutions for use in Motorola radios that will be shipped to Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Transcrypt will be certified through October 2007; the company has been an accredited partner since February 2000.

Padcom names CEO

Mobile roaming and remote access solutions provider Padcom announced the appointment of Scott A. Stone as its CEO. Stone previously was Padcom's chief operating officer and succeeds Charles F. Cleary. Prior to joining Padcom last year, Stone served in senior-level positions at Avaya.

Motorola Q3 net earnings triple year-over-year

Motorola announced net earnings of $479 million — or 20 cents per share — in the third quarter 2004, a 313% increase over the $116 million — or 5 cents per share — posted in the same quarter last year. Sales for Q4 2004 totaled $8.6 billion, a 26% increase over the $6.8 billion reported for Q3 2003.

The company's commercial, government and industrial solutions sector reported sales of $1.2 billion, a 12% increase year-over-year, and earnings of $185 million, a 27% increase over the $146 million reported in the same quarter last year. The success was driven primarily by continued investments by government customers worldwide in homeland security-oriented technologies. For example, CGIS received a $329 million contract from the Commonwealth of Virginia for a statewide multi-agency radio system during the quarter.

In other news, Motorola said it would deploy a Dimetra IP TETRA system to a public transportation agency in the Slovak Republic. The deal calls for Motorola to supply 1200 portable and mobile terminals.

Also, Motorola said it has won contracts to provide more than 20,000 TETRA radios that will be used on a countrywide encrypted public-safety network in The Netherlands. The company also said it introduce “within the next month” the MTH800, its latest TETRA radio, for use on the Dutch network.

Finally, Motorola announced that it would deploy a push-to-talk over cellular solutions over a GPRS network operated Chunghwa Telecom, which serves about 8 million wireless subscribers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Georgia toll authority upgrades RFID system

The Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) said it would become the first toll facility in the continental U.S. to upgrade its radio frequency identification (RFID) toll collection system by using a paper-thin, lower-cost, battery-less windshield sticker tag developed by Harrisburg, Pa.-based TransCore. The contract calls for TransCore to provide 100,000 eGo tags, 18 multi-protocol readers and installation services. Products will ship in the first quarter 2005 and the system should be operating by mid-summer 2005, TransCore said.

Vanu, Raytheon to team up on DARPA initiative

Vanu announced it would partner with Raytheon in the second phase of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Next Generation (XG) program, which is working to develop cognitive radio technologies. Vanu will provide its software radio technology and waveforms, while Raytheon will provide its spectrum management and control techniques. The companies eventually will demonstrate products that will detect and avoid other uses in the 900 MHz band, typically cordless phones. A timeframe for the demonstration was not announced.

Symbol, Nextel in iDEN partnership

Symbol Technologies and Nextel announced a partnership to jointly develop mobile computing solutions, including the integration of Nextel's iDEN technology into future hand-held devices. Terms were not disclosed.

However, as part of the deal, customers using Symbol's iDEN-embedded hand-held devices will have access to Nextel's nationwide wireless network and Symbol's enterprise mobility reference architecture. The iDEN-embedded solutions will be targeted to the transportation, distribution, public safety, retail, manufacturing, healthcare, utilities and telecommunications market segments, the companies said.