Conference: The Genesis of Unlicensed Wireless Policy: How Spread Spectrum Devices Won Access to License-Exempt Bandwidth

A Conference Hosted by the Information Economy Project

Friday, April 4, 2008, Arlington, Virginia

Unlicensed wireless devices, from Wi-Fi routers to baby monitors to cordless phones, are in common use today. But the technologies they deploy were largely illegal until significant reforms were enacted in the mid-1980s. Starting in the United States, regulators permitted certain types of radios to access frequencies on a non-exclusive basis. These policy measures unleashing unlicensed have remained largely in the shadows.

This conference aims to bring new historical perspective to the emergence of the license-exempt rules and the applications that followed. It will explore the interplay between industry initiatives and government responses. It will showcase a series of academic research papers examining how unlicensed spectrum policies developed and how they helped shaped market responses.

The Information Economy Project is bringing together speakers deeply involved in crafting key policy changes, including spectrum allocations and technology standards. Many of the individuals have also been at the forefront of supplying applications via unlicensed spectrum. This conference should prove informative to people interested in spectrum policy generally, or unlicensed wireless in particular. It may also interest students of regulation, technological innovation, communications, or law and economics.


Conference Agenda:

8:15 a.m. Informal Breakfast and Welcome

  • Thomas Hazlett, George Mason University School of Law

8:30 a.m. Morning Keynote

  • Michael J. Marcus – Wi-Fi and Bluetooth – The Path from Carter and Reagan-Era Faith in Deregulation to Widespread Products Impacting Our World
  • Mark Fowler – Federal Communications Commission Chairman, May 1981 – April 1987, Mark Fowler’s Introduction of Mike Marcus, Read by Chuck Jackson

9:15 a.m. Panel 1: Policy Development

  • Kenneth R. Carter – Unlicensed to Kill: a Brief History of the FCC Part 15 Rules
  • Stephen J. Lukasik – Unleashing Innovation: Making the FCC User-Friendly
  • Henry Goldberg – Grazing on the Commons: The Emergence of Part 15
  • Chuck Jackson – Moderator

10:30 a.m. Break

10:45 a.m. Panel 2: Market Development

  • Kevin Negus, Al Petrick – History of Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs) in the Unlicensed Bands
  • Ing Victor Hayes, Dr. Ir. Wolter Lemstra – Unlicensed: The Case of Wi-Fi
  • Tim Pozar – Broadband Access in Unlicensed Bands for Fun & Profit
  • Anthony Townsend – Moderator

12:15 p.m. Luncheon Keynote

  • Dewayne Hendricks – What Went Wrong with U-PCS

1:30 p.m. Concluding Remarks by Thomas Hazlett

1:45 p.m. Adjourn

Speaker Biographies:

Speaker Biographies.pdf


Papers written for this conference were published in INFO, Special Issue August 2009, INFO Volume 11, Issue 5 from Genesis of Unlicensed Wireless Policy: How Spread Spectrum Devices Won Access to License-Exempt Bandwidth, held on April 4, 2008:

Unlicensed Wireless Policy Conference: Guest Editorial, by Charles L. Jackson

Unlicensed to Kill: A Brief History of the FCC Part 15 Rules, by Kenneth R. Carter

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth: The Path from Carter and Reagan-era Faith in Deregulation to Widespread Products Impacting Our World, by Michael J. Marcus

History of Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs) in the Unlicensed Bands, by Kevin Negus & Al Petrick

License-Exempt: The Emergence of Wi-Fi, by Ing Victor Hayes & Ir. Wolter Lemstra

Grazing on the Commons: The Emergence of Part 15, by Henry Goldberg

Unleashing Innovation: Making the FCC User-Friendly, by Stephen J. Lukasik

Has “Unlicensed” in Part 15 Worked? A Case Study, by Tim Pozar

(featured image by Thiago Silva)


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This entry is part 2 of 9 in the series Unlicensed Wireless Conference 2008