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Anatech Electronics, a manufacturer of RF and microwave filters, has published its September 2016 newsletter. As always, it includes both company news and some tidbits about relevant industry happenings. This month, Sam Benzacar discusses the topic of "The Sad State of E911," the Fed's pledge of $400M for 5G Research, the FCC's new 3.5 GHz spectrum allocation, and the Apple Watch possibly getting GPS. Anatech's business is to make certain that system and circuit designers have capable filters available to assure successful implementation.
By Sam Benzacar
Ordinarily in this column I address issues of interference, their sources, and of course the remedy, which most effectively are RF and microwave filters. However, I feel strongly enough about the issue of E911 that I felt compelled to write about it.
Like everyone reading this column, I take it for granted that calling 911 will get a first responders to me rapidly, no matter where I am. And it will, at least if I'm calling from a landline so that the Public Safety Access Point where the call is received will be able to correlate the incoming phone number to a specific address. But if I'm calling from a smartphone, all bets are off because under current regulations, wireless carriers need only locate me to the nearest cell site, which they determine by correlating the locations of three cell sites. For first responders time is precious so this is often utterly useless.
The FCC has been tiptoeing around getting wireless carriers to meet its mandate for more precise geolocation for years, but when the deadlines are about to be reached, the carriers have repeatedly asked for more time, which they've gotten. So now the FCC is putting teeth into its latest mandate, no doubt prodded at least in part by an investigative article appearing last year in USA Today that graphically described how woefully inadequate wireless E911 is. More specifically, people are dying because first responders can find them.
The FCC is also attempting to get the carriers to provide "three-axis" location information, which includes the vertical dimension, the latter being something the FCC as long asked for but hasn't gotten for the lack of a technology to provide it. Without precise vertical positioning, even if the horizontal positioning accuracy is good enough to determine that I happen to be an apartment building, there's no way to determine in what unit I'm in or for that matter what floor I'm on. A company called NextNav seems to have the answer to both indoor and vertical geolocation, and is currently employing its solution in the U.S.
But you still might ask why, when Google and hundreds of other location-based apps seem to be able to pinpoint your location, why hasn't this capability been available to first responders for years? I don't have a good answer for this question nor, for that matter, does the FCC. However, it can be done with a reasonable degree of accuracy by using GPS information provided by the phone (at least if the smartphone user is outdoors), Wi-Fi hotspot locations, and cell site triangulation.
"Coincidentally," Google announced in July that it has added a capability within Android called Emergency Location Services that provides reasonably accurate geolocation (Google doesn't say how accurate) exclusively for first responders. It's being rolled out in the UK and Estonia (yes, Estonia) and possibly will find its way to the U.S. Critics might say that Google's timing is interesting considering its current difficulties with the EU, but nevertheless it's a step forward. Will Apple follow suit? It certainly has the ability to do so, but hasn't announced anything.
There's a lot more to this story, but my point is that there appears to be absolutely no reason why both indoor coverage as well as three axis geolocation cannot be accomplished today at minimal cost to the carriers. Even if its first implementation is not ideal, it's certainly better than the next to nothing that we have today.
Feds Pledge $400 Million for 5G Research
The Obama Administration recently announced the Advanced Wireless Research Initiative (AWRI) led by the National Science Foundation for research into 5G technology. It dovetails with the FCC's plans to create 5G test platforms over the next 10 years in major cities. The test bed will allow academia and private industry to evaluate technologies in a realistic environment. Participants include AT&T, HTC, Intel, Juniper Networks, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon that collectively have pledged more than $35 million to support the building the test beds.
FCC's New 3.5 GHz Spectrum Allocation
When the FCC finalized its rules for the Citizens' Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) that opened up 150 MHz of spectrum for shared use in the 3.5 GHz band, it got little attention. However, 150 MHz is a lot of spectrum, even though it will be shared with the federal government and other users. An organization called the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) Alliance has been formed to develop applications and includes Federated Wireless, Google, Ruckus Wireless, Qualcomm, Nokia, and Intel. Leon alliance wants wireless carriers to utilize the spectrum as well. Google is already done some field work and other trials are being conducted throughout this year and next.
Apple Watch to Get GPS?
Rumor has it that when Apple unveils its latest products this month, its second-generation Apple Watch 2 will include GPS, which makes it better suited for fitness applications. Another rumor making the rounds is that it may actually become a stand-alone communications device with LTE capability, which is certainly questionable considering its tiny battery and small size. It will probably also be waterproof and have a much better display and a totally redesigned user interface.
Radar Tower for Sale. Excellent Views.
There are lots of unusual real estate properties for sale throughout the world, but this one is truly unique: The Cold War-era radar tower near Birch Bay in Washington state near the Canadian border, which is five stories high, made of reinforced concrete (as it formerly held a 70-ton radar system), and priced at $1.5 million. The tower site is a perfect viewing location as it was placed there because of its ability to search the horizon and has a breathtaking view of the San Juan Mountains. Each floor has four solid concrete columns, each 3 ft.² and walls a foot thick, presumably to withstand a nuclear attack.
Patriot System Replacement on Tap
Just after Raytheon began showing off its latest GaN-powered, AESA-based version of the Patriot radar system, competition for a replacement is in the works, with Lockheed Martin and Raytheon as the competitors. The Army says it needs a system that is reasonably mature, would cost less than $50 million, and would have 360 deg. coverage. Both companies have stressed that they have the technology readiness to meet the Army's objectives of having something to show sometime in 2017. Like all systems these days, it would likely be based on an open architecture that would allow rapid new technology insertion and the ability to scale upwards in capability.
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About Anatech Electronics
Anatech Electronics, Inc. (AEI) specializes in the design and manufacture of standard and custom RF and microwave filters and other passive components and subsystems employed in commercial, industrial, and aerospace and applications. Products are available from an operating frequency range of 10 kHz to 30 GHz and include cavity, ceramic, crystal, LC, and surface acoustic wave (SAW), as well as power combiners/dividers, duplexers and diplexers, directional couplers, terminations, attenuators, circulators, EMI filters, and lightning arrestors. The company's custom products and capabilities are available at www.anatechelectronics.com.
Anatech Electronics, Inc.
70 Outwater Lane
Garfield, NJ 07026
Posted September 13, 2016