If you look at a U.S. spectrum chart, there are precious few radio frequencies that are unclaimed — it’s why commercial-wireless executives have been outspoken in proclaiming a “spectrum crisis” that federal policymakers have been working feverishly to resolve by pursuing strategies that would clear valuable airwaves.

Unlicensed spectrum certainly has proven to be a hotbed of wireless innovation, with the development of 802.11 technologies in the 2.4 GHz band being the shining example. However, commercial carriers and public-safety agencies have long favored licensed frequencies as their spectral foundation of choice, because licensed frequencies provide a more predictable — and, therefore, more reliable — environment for communications.

But Florida-based xG Technology announced that it had developed technology that company officials claimed would enable carrier-class reliability and performance while operating on unlicensed spectrum. The claims were the source of considerable skepticism among wireless engineers, with many labeling xG Technology as a “scam,” even though multiple providers independently assessed the company’s xMax and none proclaimed it a fraud.

Given the lousy economy, the prospects of a significant commercial buildout of xMax — the kind of large-scale deployment needed to prove its legitimacy — were not good. With credit tight, finding enough private investment to build any kind of commercial wide-area network is tough; trying to find investors to support the buildout of a network using unproven technology is virtually impossible.

Despite the questions and criticisms of xG Technology, the military has opted to conduct its own tests of the cognitive-radio solution that avoids interference by assessing the radio-frequency environment in a given location every 33 milliseconds and utilizing airwaves that are available. And the xMax system tested at Fort Bliss was “exceptionally impressive,” according to Mike McCarthy, director of operations for the Mission Command Complex at the Brigade Modernization Command at Fort Bliss.

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Some of the key advantages of the xG Technology solution is that it inherently avoids interference from jamming and — by automatically operating on available spectrum—does not require a lot of preplanned spectrum coordination by platoons on the move.

McCarthy said the military plans to conduct further tests in the spring to “push that system as far as we can push it.” The results of these tests should be of interest to many, not just those in the military. If the xMax system proves that it can provide reliable communications over unlicensed spectrum, the utility of unlicensed bands and prospects for wireless communications operating in the TV white spaces could be transformed in the near future.

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