FCC takes a new look at one cause of spectrum squabbles: shoddy receivers

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Federal regulators are just beginning to tackle a technical flaw that threatens to hold back the United States’ next giant leap in communications: Many of our radios suck. The issue is a growing problem for telecom companies, which time and again have seen multibillion-dollar wireless projects run aground on claims that the new service would interfere with airwaves that other industries rely on. That was the root of a squabble in January 2022 that forced AT&T and Verizon to delay a rollout of 5G broadband service, as the wireless and airline industries jousted over whether the signals could cause planes to crash. Similar fights in recent years have pitted new wireless projects against politically powerful industries such as automakers, electric utilities and cable operators, along with the US military. In each case, companies offering new service on slices of the electromagnetic spectrum faced complaints that their transmitters’ signals would spill into adjacent airwaves — despite assurances to the contrary from the Federal Communications Commission. But some critics say the problem isn’t the newcomers’ transmitters — it’s the incumbent industries’ receivers. They maintain that poorly designed receivers ill-suited to the dawning 5G age, including the altimeters on some passenger planes, fail to filter out signals from nearby swaths of spectrum. That didn’t pose much difficulty when the spectrum was less crowded with users, but it’s becoming increasingly troublesome as the demand rises for super fast wireless connections to enable services such as video conferencing, telemedicine and connected cars.


FCC taking a new look at one cause of spectrum squabbles: shoddy receivers