IWCE disseminates technical, regulatory, product info More than 10,000 wireless industry professionals gathered in Las Vegas Apr. 28-30 for the 23rd Annual International Wireless Communications Exposition. Attendees browsed the displays of more than 350 exhibitors and audited a wide variety of business-, technology- and regulatory-related conference sessions.
Special sessions included the RF Design Seminar series and base station workshops. The regular conference business track covered wireless data, specialty wireless applications and dealers’ use of the Internet. The regulatory track examined auctions and licensing, and FCC rules and regulations for European radio. The technology track dealt with analog-to-digital migration, solar photovoltaic power and new antenna technology. Both the FCC Forum and “Industry Leaders Meet the Press” were well-attended sessions.
Plenary session Robert H. Schwaninger Jr., MRT’s regulatory consultant, addressed the opening session on “State of the Industry Report-Cash and Chaos Theory 101.” He offered views on topics ranging from 800MHz relocation agreements to CALEA. (See page 18.) Schwaninger said many of his clients were making higher and higher profits by selling dispatch radio and gravitating to cellular. “They could make more,” he said, “if they only had more spectrum.”
Keynote speaker Steve Virostek, vice president of messaging and dispatch at The Strategis Group, an industry analysis firm, presented a breakdown of conditions in the private radio market. Virostek said private radio communications equipment was still a big business with sales of $2.2 billion in 1998. The number of private radio users reached 16.3 million in 1998, roughly 13% of the U.S. workforce. Leading users of non-commercial spectrum were businesses, at 61% of total users, government agencies at 13% and public safety at 10%. Virostek said projections show narrowband analog radio sales should climb over the next five years to represent about 23% of all units sold in 2004. Virostek also said that the greatest obstacle to the growth of the private radio industry is the lack of clean radio spectrum to accommodate additional use.
FCC officials announced two changes in bureau activities at the show. They announced a postponement of enforcing a new policy of rejecting without prejudice improperly completed license applications. The orginal effective date of May 1 is being postponed to allow the FCC time to more widely publicize the change to licensees and potential licensees. Riley Hollingsworth, Compliance and Information Bureau (CIB) legal advisor, also announced that the CIB is now ready to increase involvement in interference issues affecting the land mobile bands.
Potential private wireless auctions To respond to regulatory activities occurring after the program had been set, a special general conference session was added to IWCE the afternoon of April 29. The session focused exclusively on the implications and repercussions of a recent FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) (WT Docket No. 99-87). The NPRM examines how the FCC may implement changes to its statutory auction authority outlined in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. The NPRM is seen by industry observers as a harbinger of auctions in private wireless spectrum. [Editor’s note: Comments to the NPRM are due 60 days following the docket’s publication in the Federal Register, which occurred on May 3. On May 12, the Land Mobile Communications Council filed a request for extension to file comments. The FCC routinely grants such requests for a 30-day period, so comments will probably be filed through late July. See, “The FCC wants to auction your privates,” page 42.].
Panelists for the special session were Laura L. Smith, executive director, government relations, for the Industrial Telecommunications Association (ITA) and Robert H. Schwaninger Jr. of Schwaninger & Associates, general counsel to Small Business in Telecommunications (SBT). Both panelists noted that the NPRM does not contain any specific proposed rules that would expand auctions into current private wireless bands, but contains numerous questions about use of the spectrum by private wireless licensees. The attorneys characterized the NPRM as more of a “Notice of Inquiry” by the FCC, and urged the attendees to work through their trade associations to present a uniform front to the FCC that can indicate that changes explored in the NPRM are “a bad idea.”
The Radio Club of America hosted a breakfast meeting at IWCE on April 29. Featured speaker Jay Kitchen, president of the Personal Communications Industry Association, spoke about some of the key regulatory issues that affect the radio business. He said the four key issues were refarming, 800MHz wide-area licensing, private spectrum allocation and private spectrum auctions. Kitchen gave an evaluation of each issue.
It was not all work and no play in Las Vegas. An International Reception the evening of April 28 was well-attended by many of the 1,100 international delegates attending IWCE. MRT, Wireless Technology International and Site Management & Technology hosted a barbecue for exhibitors after they had finished booth setup on the April 27. Kenwood, Trident, Icom, Ritron, Maxrad, Intek Global, Dataradio, Telewave, IMTA and RFS Cablewave also hosted receptions throughout the event.
Merger, compliance issues highlight SBT ‘jam session’ Small Business in Telecommunications (SBT) and SMR WON announced the merger of the two telecom trade associations during an SBT “jam session” seminar held one day prior to the International Wireless Communications Expo in Las Vegas.
In the surprise joint announcement by Lonnie Danchik, chairman of SBT, and Walter Gallinghouse, secretary-treasurer for SMR WON, the two industry leaders said the absorption of SMR WON into SBT was prompted by overlapping interests in industry regulation and competition issues affecting land mobile communications business operators, as well as some duplication of membership. The merged organization will continue as SBT.
SMR WON was formed in the fall of 1994, primarily as a response to the FCC freeze on 800MHz SMR licenses and to attempt to block auctions of that spectrum. In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the FCC’s auction authority for 800MHz.
SBT was organized in March of 1996, focusing on a broader range of issues facing small telecommunications businesses, such as paging, interconnection, SMR and various regulatory issues. Its voting membership is restricted to businesses with annual revenues less than $20 million.
Danchik later said issues involving merging the officers and boards of the two organizations will be resolved at their next scheduled business meetings.
McCain to address SBT Also announced at the SBT seminar was an affirmation from U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to appear as the keynote speaker at SBT’s fall seminar in St. Louis in September. McCain is chairman of the powerful U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which oversees telecommunications legislation. He also is an announced candidate for the Republican Party presidential nomination.
Full program Seminar sessions, introduced and linked by SBT General Counsel Robert H. Schwaninger Jr., covered contract negotiations for 800MHz relocation in the upper 200 channels, and efforts by Mobex Communications to have the federal courts enforce the 1994 U.S. Department of Justice consent decree affecting competition by Nextel Communications in major markets.
Other topics included interconnection negotiations between paging operators and local exchange carriers, FCC auction participation and procedures, universal licensing, local number portability, the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act, 450MHz trunking and the FCC’s recent NPRM regarding auction authority and private wireless.
Seminar sponsors, which also provided brief presentations to the attendees, included ComSpace, Electro-Comm Distributing, DX Radio Communications, Vic Jackson Interconnection Services, Kenwood Communications and Communications Equity Associates.
ITA unveils automated frequency coordination The Industrial Telecommunications Association, Arlington, VA, announced the introduction of “Netlicense” at a press conference held Wednesday, April 28, at IWCE.
Netlicense is an automated system for processing private wireless FCC applications and concurrent frequency coordination certification requirements. The system initiates both the process of submitting FCC Form 600 application data and engages the necessary spectrum analysis programs, which streamlines the entire frequency coordination process. The system can be accessed via the Internet at www.netlicense.org.
Netlicense may be used to apply for either a new license or the modification of an existing license. When an applicant, who must be an ITA member, completes the necessary application data, that information automatically commences application initiation and frequency coordination procedures.
Anritsu presents hand-held spectrum analyzer “I lost 26 pounds in Vegas,” was touted by Anritsu’s Microwave Measurement Division, Richardson, TX, because of its introduction of a hand-held spectrum analyzer at IWCE, on April 28.
The MS2711 stood out as a new product with a weight of 4 pounds. Designed for field environments and applications requiring mobility, the analyzer satisfies spectrum analysis needs in PCS, paging, cellular, WLAN/WPBX and other communications system applications. The battery-operated unit covers the 100kHz to 3,000MHz frequency range.
The hand-held analyzer offers synthesizer-based performance, delivering measurements anywhere and at anytime. A broad range of functions coupled with narrow-resolution bandwidths to 10kHz makes it suitable for finding the source of interfering signals in modern wireless systems. The analyzer features 90dBm sensitivity, 360dB dynamic range, 61.5dB amplitude accuracy and phase noise performance of -74dBc/Hz.
Users are able to store 10 setups along with 200 measurement traces internally in the unit’s nonvolatile memory. The stored data can be easily downloaded to a PC or a printer via an RS-232 serial cable. A notebook computer can be used with the RS-232 interface for automated control and data collection. A modem can be used for remote operation.
Transcrypt International reduces prices, plans new products, receives additional orders Demand for the Transcrypt International’s business and industrial radio communications products declined in the first quarter of 1999 because of increased price competition.
“We have adjusted prices to be competitive,” said the company’s new chairman, Michael Jalbert.
Transcrypt plans to introduce new encryption modules in a wide range of mobile radios and telephony products. Its EFJohnson Division introduced, in the first quarter, a line of Project 25-compliant digital mobile radios, and it intends to introduce new models of hand-held land mobile radios in the fourth quarter.
The company’s $9.7 million first-quarter revenue is a decrease of 55.8% compared to $22 million for the same period last year. The loss for the quarter was $4 million, compared to a net income of $1.3 million for the comparable period in 1998.
Although Transcrypt faced continued weakness in systems sales, lacking any large new domestic systems contracts during 1998, it was awarded two systems contracts for $6 million in March 1999. Those orders will bring future revenue. International sales declined in the first quarter, primarily in Latin America. Operating expenses improved by $1.3 million compared to the first quarter last year.
Jalbert said, “Management’s attention and energy is now focused on our customers and markets. Our top priorities going forward are revenue growth, a return to profitability and liquidity.’
Additional orders came to Transcrypt during April. The first is for $1 million worth of encryption modules to secure the radio communications system of a Western Europe national police organization.
George R. Spiczak, newly named as senior vice president and general manager for Transcrypt’s Information Security segment, cited the company’s “superior product offering and technical skill to interface products” into almost any communication system as reasons why the company won the order. Spiczak arrived April 22 from Microdyne, Alexandria, VA, where he had worked for Jalbert as senior vice president of operations.
On April 28, at the MRT-sponsored International Wireless Communications Expo, Transcrypt announced that its EFJohnson Division received $3.7 million in new orders from current customers “recently.” The orders from five customers include the expansion of and the addition of simulcast sites on current public safety systems, upgrades to system infrastructure and additional subscriber units.
IMTA ranks trunked systems by 25 largest in world; Nextel ranks No. 1 in United States Research by the International Mobile Telecommunications Association, Washington, finds the largest markets for commercial trunked radio are Canada, Germany, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom. For lack of accurate information on operators in China, no Chinese operators are included on the list-though some might have qualified. Many subscribers also are found in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, France, Malaysia, Mexico, South Korea, Spain and Turkey.
IMTA research shows 4.5 million more units in use in 1998 compared to 1994. It predicts another 20 million subscribers by 2005, thanks to high loading levels that digital systems achieve relatively quickly and their anticipated growth throughout the world. In the United States, almost 2.5 million digital units are expected to be in service by 2000, according to “The State of SMR and Digital Radio” published by the American Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) and Strategis Group. IMTA estimates that 3.4 million of the 8.6 million subscribers recorded in 1998 were digital units. By 2000, IMTA anticipates that the number of digital subscribers will surpass analog subscribers worldwide, accounting for more than 8 million subscribers.
Great demand remains for conventional and trunked analog systems in large cities and rural areas. Several manufacturers, such as A Communications, ComSpace and SmartLink Development, have developed technologies that allow analog systems to offer more sophisticated services, achieve greater capacity and provide coverage over wider areas through networking.
Among North American operators, Nextel (United States) ranks No. 1 with 2.96 million subscribers. No. 5 is Clearnet Communications (Canada) with 154,627. No. 8 is SouthernLinc with 100,000. No. 9 is Comunicaciones Nextel De Mexico with 80,000. No. 12 is Mobex Communications (United States) with 60,000. No. 16 is Delta Comunicaciones Digitales SA. de C.V (Mexico) with 35,200. No. 18 is Elyps Dispatch Solutions (Canada) with 30,000.
The full list is available at www.imta.org/storyofweek.html. The system rankings were determined solely by the number of subscribers each system has to date, not on capacity or coverage.
Uniden Private Radio focuses on manufacturer’s reps, distributors During the past year, the Private Radio Communications Division of Uniden America, Fort Worth, TX, has found it necessary to respond to the destabilization of foreign currency markets in Asia and Latin America. Uniden now sells mostly through representatives and distributors. It now has fewer direct sales employees and more indirect sales representatives.
Among those exiting the division during the past year are Kazuo Suzuka, the division’s executive vice president; Jon Osler, international sales manager; and Glenn Gordon, marketing manager. The number of employees let go was not released, but a source close to Uniden put it at 15, leaving the division with eight employees. Some remaining employees moved up in the process; among them, Ken Armbrust was promoted to national sales manager.
Sal Farina, who advanced from domestic sales manager to vice president of sales during the period, explained what he characterized as the division’s slight change in focus.
“Uniden is trying to have all of our sales and distribution U.S.-based,” he said. “We still service international customers, but we have consolidated sales and distribution to the United States.” Among the U.S.-based distribution centers Farina identified are Beam Radio, Hutton and Lenbrook Industries.
Last year, Farina’s predecessor, Yasuhito Hara, said that the division sought a revenue increase of 20% during 1998 and another 20% in 1999. Hara since has moved up to vice president of the division. Although Farina did not comment about the division’s revenue change for last year or its current revenue target, he talked about business prospects involving conventional two-way radio, 450MHz trunking, 800MHz analog trunking and the fresh FCC rulemaking about private radio spectrum.
“Growth has come in conventional market share,” Farina explained. “We also have grown in 450MHz trunking, which we didn’t have a year ago.”
Regarding 800MHz trunking, he said, “the 800MHz market has softened considerably because of Nextel pressure,” adding that the pressure includes not only Nextel’s marketing but the frequencies and spectrum the company controls.
A competitor, Lincoln, NE-based Transcrypt International, stated in its 1998 annual report that Nextel’s conversion of analog systems to digital is making a large amount of used 800MHz equipment available. Farina agreed that the used equipment inventory is interfering with sales of new systems in the United States. On the other hand, he said that, internationally, 800MHz is “stable.” Regarding the FCC rulemaking in WT Docket No. 99-87 that might result in auctions of private radio spectrum, Farina said that Uniden’s main customer base is the land mobile radio dealer.
“Any auction scenario or any spectrum allocation scenario would have to have the dealer as a primary participant. We favor any plan that brings spectrum to that dealer. They would benefit financially,” he said.
Last year, two companies were supplying narrowband (5kHz) two-way radio equipment, Datamarine International, Mountlake Terrace, WA, and Intek Global, New York. A third, ComSpace, Irving, TX, had taken its narrowband development to the prototype stage. Uniden has a narrowband technology, that has not yet deployed. The company is not committed to deploying its technology in favor of using another that might become more widely accepted-ComSpace’s, for example. “We follow ComSpace’s progress step by step,” Farina said. “We are interested in anything that would increase spectrum capacity. Our customers would welcome that.”
DX Communications has announced that its DX Radio Systems Division has separated from the parent, TPL Communications, Los Angeles, and has been incorporated as DX Radio Systems. It was decided that as separate entities, both divisions would be able to better focus on their respective product lines: for DX Radio, repeaters, and for TPL, amplifiers.
A.C. Data Systems, Coeur d’Alene, ID, and Transtector Systems, companies that make surge protection equipment, have settled their pending patent litigation. (www.surgeblox.com)
On May 6, Nextel Communications, McLean, VA, and MCI Worldcom called off merger talks. Four days later, Microsoft agreed to invest $600 million buying Nextel stock and to enable Nextel customers to access a customized set of Internet services offered through a co-branded version of the MSN portal.
SmartLink Development Network, Apex, NC, has received certification from the Communications Committee of Russia for its SRMLink trunking system and components. “One of the main demands of Russian customers is telephone interconnect through trunking controllers,” said Sergey Pugatchev, chief executive of SmartLink’s Russian distributor, Bermos. With certification, orders have increased “significantly,” a statement from SmartLink reads. (www.smartlinklp.com)
Coded Communications, Carlsbad, CA, ceased operations February 17. Inquiries at 800-228-6367 are referred to Steven W. Spence at fax number 302-655-4210. The Web site was still active in April. (www.coded.com) . On April 16, more than 50 rural utility representatives from 15 states came to Kansas City, MO, for a National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) informational session and product demonstration of its 220MHz Wireless Communications Program. “Rural utilities nationwide have come to understand that a shortage of spectrum suitable for wireless communications is looming in the near future,” said Charles Horton, NRTC’s director of wireless systems. (www.nrtc.org)
To add to its line of passive broadcast RF products, systems and services, Orland Park, IL-based Andrew Corp. has acquired Maine-based Passive Power Products. Where wireless infrastructure sales have been slow for Andrew, digital television (DTV) infrastructure construction is expected to grow, hence the acquisition. Andrew said it may reduce its worldwide workforce of 4,000 by 10%-12%. (www.andrew.com)
AML Communications, Camarillo, CA, a maker of multicarrier and towertop amplifiers, is cutting 25 jobs (27% of its roster). (www.amlj.com) On April 29, California Microwave, Sunnyvale, CA, changed its name to Adaptive Broadband, the name of a company it acquired on Aug. 20, 1998. On Nov. 19, 1998, the company acquired Crown Satellite. Hardly resting, the company announced on March 11 the expected sale of its defense business to Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman for $93 million at closing and as much as $5 million more in 2000 if certain revenue goals are met. The company’s Microwave Data Systems division in Rochester, NY, is known for MDS point-to-point radios for public safety communications. (www.microwavedata.com) . The Ministry of Information Industry of the People’s Republic of China has certified MVP modular voice processing system for interconnectivity with China’s public SS7 and MFR2 telecommunications networks. MVP is made by Glenayre Technologies, Charlotte, NC. Also, the company has shipped “the majority of product” under an $8.3 million contract with the Long Distance and Mobile Business Group of ChungHwa Telecom, Taiwan, to upgrade and expand its nationwide Flex paging network. Meanwhile, Golden Eagle Credit, Ridgefield, CT, is helping Glenayre to in turn help carriers to offer a leasing option for two-way pagers. Furthermore, Chairman Ramon Ardizzone, commenting on the Glenayre’s loss of $45.2 million for 1998 compared with earnings of $26.6 million for 1997, said: “We have made the right expense adjustments to support the volume of business we expect.” (www.glenayre.com, www.goldeneaglecredit.com)
FCC clarifies PLMR rules The Commission will continue consolidating the radio services below 800MHz in the interest of more effective and efficient use of the Private Land Mobile Radio (PLMR) spectrum, as it released in April in a second memorandum opinion and order. The commission also clarified various aspects of the consolidation rules.
The second MO&O addresses the pending requests for reconsideration and clarification, except those related to the trunking rules and potential interference to medical telemetry systems, which the commission will address in the future. Eligibility in the public safety pool is limited to those entities that were eligible licensees under any of the former public safety radio services and the special emergency radio service.
The order also affirmed the reliance on the frequency coordination process, rejected arguments that, with consolidation, the traditional expert and impartial service of frequency coordinators will be compromised, and declined to regulate the frequency coordination process more restrictively.
The order clarified several aspects of the rules regarding licensees operating on the low-power 12.5kHz offset channels in the 450MHz-470MHz band and made limited provision for the use of wide-band equipment on low-power offset channels and clarified the rules regarding the stations from which applicants proposing trunked systems must obtain concurrence.
Hospitals granted waiver for SERS Seven hospitals haved file requests for waiver asking the commission to grandfather their existing Special Emergency Radio Service (SERS) paging systems operating on certain 453MHz frequencies. Each of the hospitals contends that it meets at least one criterion for a grant of a permanent waiver permitting the continued operation of its existing SERS paging system. Specifically, the hospitals contend that relocation of their respective paging systems would disrupt public safety communications. Based on the record established in each case, the FCC concluded that these Requests for Waiver should be granted to permit them to continue their one-way medical paging systems on the subject frequencies in the 453MHz band. This action services the public interest because the hospitals’ migration to other paging frequencies would pose unnecessary risks to essential medical paging communications without significant public interest benefits.
FCC dismisses SMR petition The FCC dismissed a Petition to Dismiss or Deny filed on behalf of clients who operate 800MHz Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) systems in the Maricopa County, Arizona area against Nextel License Holdings 4. The SMR clients contended that certain 800MHz SMR applications filed by Nextel for stations in Maricopa County are defective and did not comply with FCC rules. In addition, the clients alleged that these applications contain misrepresentations of material facts that require the FCC to ascertain whether Nextel has the required character qualifications to be a licensee. The FCC also clarified the procedures to be used by incumbent 800MHz SMR licensees filing notifications of new or modified station sites pursuant to section 90.693 of the Commission’s rules.