Wireless Waffle - A whole spectrum of radio related rubbish
Silly - Deine Stärkensignal strength
Wednesday 13 March, 2013, 08:00 - Chart Predictions
Posted by Administrator
To be truthful, most of the so-called 'chart preductions' that have previously bedecked the pages of Wireless Waffle, have been little more than excuses to showcase some great music heard whilst travelling, none of which is really that likely to chart in the UK, and most of which has already been a hit in the home country of the artist concerned. So chart, yes. Predictions, um, less so.

This time is different though! The single for Deine Stärken by German band Silly is not due to be released until tomorrow (March 14) so this really is a chart prediction (though the download has been available since 1 March). As with other Wireless Waffle song selections, the probability of it reaching the top of the UK charts is rather slim, not least because there have only ever been 3 German language songs that have even made it into the top:
  • Nicole - Ein bißchen Frieden (1982)
  • Nena - 99 Luftballons (1984)
  • Falco - Rock Me Amadeus (1985)
and those had to have English translations to be hits!

But in German speaking countries such as, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium (yes, German is an official language of Belgium too) as well as in many other countries where the language of a song is not such a barrier to success as it is in English speaking countries, Wireless Waffle strongly tips Deine Stärken (Your Strengths) for great things.



Silly have been around for a long time, having originally formed in 1978 in the now defunkt East Germany. In 1996 the band's original lead singer Tamara Danz sadly lost her life to breast cancer. From 2005 the band re-formed and went on the hunt for a new lead singer, eventually settling on the current chanteuse Anna Loos (also an actor). What a great choice, as this single attests. You don't need to understand German to hear the depth of emotion that comes through in this anthemnic rock ballad.

So it's 5 stars from Wireless Waffle and here's hoping the first chart prediction that will prove successful. If it does, we'll be sure to let you know!
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Omawumi - Stay Alivesignal strength
Friday 8 March, 2013, 16:04 - Chart Predictions
Posted by Administrator
Wireless Waffle had the good fortune to have visited Africa this week. One thing that's always a pleasure when visiting other countries, let alone other continents, is the chance to listen to local radio stations and hear new music.

It was therefore a joy to come across this piece of music from Nigerian singer Omawumi. 'Stay Alive (Je Je Laye)' is mellow, uplifting and unquestionably African. A glorious tune and well worth a listen.



Toto's 1982 song 'Africa' was also heard on the radio. The mind can but boggle at how much Toto must make in royalties every day, from radio stations right across the continent. Do British rockers Asia do as well from their eponymous brethren? The answer to that can no doubt be found on the airwaves too...
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Is the European Commission's Spectrum Inventory nuts?signal strength
Wednesday 27 February, 2013, 08:20 - Amateur Radio, Spectrum Management, Satellites
Posted by Administrator
Over in Brussels, the European Commission, through the direction given to it by the Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP), is trying to identify 1200 MHz of spectrum that can be made available for 'wireless broadband' services. At present there is 1025 MHz of spectrum available for such services including:
Band Allocation Total Spectrum
Digital Dividend 791 – 821 // 832 – 862 MHz 60 MHz
900 MHz 880 – 915 // 925 – 960 MHz 70 MHz
1800 MHz 1710 – 1785 // 1805 – 1880 MHz 150 MHz
2.1 GHz (FDD) 1920 – 1980 // 2110 – 2170 MHz 120 MHz
2.1 GHz (TDD) 1900 – 1920 MHz
2010 – 2025 MHz
35 MHz
2.6 GHz (FDD) 2500 – 2570 // 2620 – 2690 MHz 140 MHz
2.6 GHz (TDD) 2570 – 2620 MHz 50 MHz
3.6 GHz 3400 – 3800 MHz 400 MHz
Total 1025 MHz

Finding another 175 MHz to make the goal of 1200 MHz is therefore surely not such a big ask. However, there are issues with the spectrum that is currently available. The 3400 – 3800 MHz band accounts for 400 MHz or a good third of it and despite already being allocated to broadband wireless in Europe, it has not been very popular. The slow take-up is partly due to a lack of mass market products for the band and the poorer propagation at these higher frequencies, but is also due to the need to protect certain C-Band satellite downlinks which remain in the band. This also forms the 9cm amateur band. It therefore seems sensible that if new spectrum is to be found, it ought to be below 3 GHz in order that it will prove popular enough to actually be put into use.

counting moneyTo try and identify 'underused' spectrum, the European Commission is conducting a spectrum inventory whose purpose is to firstly examine the availability and use of spectrum and then to consider the future needs to try and match supply with demand. The first part of this inventory, a study which examined the extent to which each spectrum band is used was published in late 2012. The initial findings of the consultants who undertook the study were that the bands with the lowest current usage and thus which might be candidates for re-allocation were:
  • 1452 – 1492 MHz. This band is set aside for DAB radio services, however it has remained virtually unused. The ECC have now recommended the re-allocation of this band for mobile services after pressure from Ericsson and Qualcomm to do so. This is therefore a 'no brainer' or a 'done deal'.
  • 1980 – 2010 // 2170 – 2200 MHz. This band is currently allocated for 3G mobile satellite services to complement terrestrial 3G services. One satellite (Eutelsat 10A) was launched with a payload that is active in this band, but it failed to deploy the dish correctly and as such the band remains largely (though not completely) unused. It would seem churlish to take this away though, when there is still scope for it to be commercialised for its intended purpose. Perhaps some form of sharing using a complimentary ground component could be envisaged.
  • 3400 – 3800 MHz. This was identified as being underused… 'Quelle surprise' as they say in Brussels!
  • 3800 – 4200 MHz. This is also part of the C-Band satellite downlink frequency range but has also been used for fixed links in some countries. Fixed links can be carefully controlled so as to avoid interference to satellite ground stations: it is unclear how a more widespread roll-out of services in this band would be feasible. This also fails the 'below 3 GHz' test.
  • 5030 – 5150 MHz. This band is allocated for aeronautical use and was intended to be used for a new microwave landing system (MLS) to replace existing landing systems and for aeronautical mobile satellite services (AMSS). Very few airports or airlines have adopted MLS (London Heathrow and British Airways being two of the few who have done so) and no AMSS services in the band have been launched. If 3.5 GHz is not popular though, it seems unlikely that 5 GHz will be any more welcome.
  • 5725 – 5875 MHz. This is a band which is available on either a licence exempt or a lightly licensed basis in most European countries for use with WiFi (802.11a) and other low power services. Being well over 3 GHz it is unlikely to be popular. It also forms a large chunk of the 6cm amateur band.
In total this represents another 770 MHz of new spectrum, more than enough to deal with finding an extra 175 MHz. However the majority of this is above 3 GHz and experience has shown that the appetite of operators for this spectrum is relatively small. The question therefore ought to be whether there is spectrum below 3 GHz which could be made available.

One option on the table, though not identified through the inventory, is the frequency band 2300 – 2400 MHz. It was identified at the 2007 World Radio Conference as a candidate for IMT (the ITU code for wireless broadband). It is already in the 3GPP standards for LTE, where it is known as the mysterious 'Band 40'. The ECC has considered the use of this band for wireless broadband services and concluded that it is quite possible. Sweden and Australia have already handed all of the band over to wireless broadband use, and many other countries (especially in Asia) have licensed part of it. One of the big problems with this band in Europe is that it is heavily used by governmental (read 'defence') services who are already smarting from the loss of many other bands over the past years and are in no mood for another re-farming exercise to release this band. Oh, and it represents the vast portion (and the most useful bit) of the 13cm amateur band.

meteosatMeanwhile, over in the USA, the FCC has also recently assessed the possibility of reallocating some the frequency band 1675 -1710 MHz for wireless broadband uses. This band is currently used for the downlink for meteorological satellite services, however few satellites venture above 1695 MHz (with the possible exception of a couple of NOAA satellites, the Chinese Feng Yun satellites and the polar orbiting METOP) and there is almost nothing above 1700 MHz, unless you count satellites yet to be launched (such as GOES-R).

Given the location of this spectrum, directly adjacent to the existing 1800 MHz band, and given that the associated pairing is also largely unused it might easily be possible to, say, extend the 1800 MHz band by 2 x 10 to become 1700 – 1785 // 1795 – 1880 MHz. Keeping the spacing between the up and downlinks would simplify the adoption of the new spectrum (in the same way that GSM became E-GSM). The 10 MHz gap in the middle is rather small which can cause handset manufacturers problems, but there are ways this could be dealt with. The loser here (other than some yet-to-be-launched satellites who could surely locate their downlink in the remaining part of the band) are radiomicrophones who are allocated 1785 – 1800 MHz. A screaming case of 'use it or lose it' if they are to retain this allocation.

And whilst we're pairing up things, how's about extending the 2.1 GHz band? The lower part of the pair, 1900 – 1920 MHz, is already licensed, albeit for TDD services. The upper part of the pair, 2090 – 2110 MHz is another of those military bands that would prove difficult to squeeze. The bigger problem here is that it contains sensitive satellite uplinks that are easily interfered with. Nonetheless, there was a terrestrial wireless network licensed in the band in the UK (Zipcom), if never actually launched.

So far, we have identified the following extra spectrum:
Band Allocation Total Spectrum
L-Band 1452 – 1492 MHz 40 MHz
Extended 1800 MHz 1700 – 1710 // 1795 – 1805 MHz 20 MHz
Extended 2.1 GHz 1900 – 1920 // 2090 – 2110 MHz 20 MHz (20 MHz was already available)
2.1 GHz MSS sharing 1980 – 2010 // 2170 – 2200 MHz 60 MHz (shared with satellite)
2.3 GHz 2300 – 2400 MHz 100 MHz
Total 240 MHz

That makes 240 MHz of potential new sub-3 GHz spectrum without too much pain and done in a way that is largely compatible with existing mobile bands, though not with existing defence or satellite sensitivities. Given the recent auction prices for spectrum, 240 MHz across Europe is worth something in the region of 75 billion Euro. So what would it cost to release it?nuts
  • L-Band is free in every sense of the word. Except possibly in the UK where it is owned by Qualcomm but presumably as they have been lobbying for it to become available for mobile services, they would have no qualms about using it for such. Cost: peanuts.
  • Extended 1800 MHz The main affected party here are some meteorological satellite downlink sites. These are few and far between and could be protected through the use of an exclusion zone. Cost: cashew nuts.
  • Extended 2.1 GHz The number of military satellites using the band 2090 – 2110 MHz is difficult to ascertain (for obvious reasons). There is also a need to re-farm the band 1900 – 1920 MHz. Cost: macadamia nuts.
  • 2.1 GHz MSS sharing In theory there is nothing to stop this taking place even with a satellite already launched. To be completely fair, it would only be reasonable to recompense the licensees (Solaris and Intelsat) for their investments. Cost: pistachio nuts.
  • 2.3 GHz Those defence boys have big toys (and big guns) that would be costly to replace. That being said, only around 40 MHz of this band is necessary if the target is 175 MHz and not 240 MHz. Surely releasing 40 MHz can’t be that difficult no matter how big your toys. The fact that the band is destined for TDD means that it doesn’t even need to be the same 40 MHz in each country. Cost: pistachio nuts.
Wireless Waffle claims no particular ownership of the proposals above, they are all kicking around here and there. A few (tons of) nuts seems a small price to ask to tackle the issues required to get things moving. Even a ton of macadamia nuts (the most expensive nut) would be less than 0.1% of the value released.

Alternatively, perhaps radio amateurs who stand to lose the 13cm, 9cm and 6cm bands might wish to launch a counter-bid? After all, they’re replete with nuts (in a good way)…!
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Who won in the UK 4G auction?signal strength
Wednesday 20 February, 2013, 10:29 - Spectrum Management
Posted by Administrator
4g logoOfcom has today published the long awaited outcome of the first phase of the UK 4G auction. The second phase of the auction is yet to take place. The first phase decided who gets how much of the spectrum, the second phase decides who gets which particular frequencies.

The winning bidders, together with the total price they paid for the spectrum they have won are shown in the table below.
Bidder 800 MHz 2.6 GHz
(paired)
2.6 GHz
(unpaired)
Price
Everything Everywhere 2 x 5 MHz 2 x 35 MHz £589 million
Hutchison 3G 2 x 5 MHz £225 million
Niche Spectrum Ventures (BT) 2 x 15 MHz 1 x 20 MHz £186 million
Telefonica 2 x 10 MHz £550 million
Vodafone 2 x 10 MHz 2 x 10 MHz 1 x 25 MHz £791 million
Total £2,341 million

Can this tell us anything about how much was paid for each of the different flavours of spectrum? Not exactly, but using relatively straightforward schoolboy maths, it's possible to make a decent stab at the value of each type of spectrum (note that this is not 100% accurate but should be in the right ball park). The results are as follows:

Band 800 MHz 2.6 GHz (paired) 2.6 GHz (unpaired)
Price per MHz £25.83 million £4.72 million £2.89 million
Amount Awarded 60 MHz
(2 x 30 MHz)
140 MHz
(2 x 70 MHz)
45 MHz
Total £1,550 million £661 million £130 million

So how does it compare with the results of auctions in other countries? Yet another table shows the outcomes in a selected number of other large European countries. (An exchange rate of £1=€1.2 has been used for the conversion).

Band Price per MHz for 800 MHz Price per MHz for 2.6 GHz (paired) Price per MHz for 2.6 GHz (unpaired)
France £36.6 million £5.57 million
Germany £49.6 million £1.53 million £1.44 million
Italy £41.1 million £3.00 million £2.06 million
UK £25.8 million £4.72 million £2.89 million

penniless chancellorSo the UK has not done as well for the 800 MHz spectrum (if you count 'doing well' as raising as much money as possible) compared to these other countries.

Of course these results are only estimates inasmuch as the maths cannot be 100% accurate without more information, but nonetheless one thing that is certain is the auction has raised significantly less than the £4 billion that pundits were expecting. What will this mean for the UK? On the one hand the UK Government will have a larger hole in its budget than it would have hoped. On the other, perhaps we can expect cheaper 4G services and a faster roll-out than might have been expected. Maybe a victory for the consumer then? Or just the shareholders of the mobile companies?
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