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9/30/2008
06:26 PM
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T-Mobile Concerned Over FCC's Free Wi-Fi Plan

The mobile operator claims recent tests near Seattle prove the free service would interfere with its cellular network.

In a move that may stifle the FCC's plan to have free nationwide wireless broadband, T-Mobile said recent tests prove the service would interfere with its network.

The FCC's plan has been met with opposition from the wireless carriers and from T-Mobile in particular. The fourth-largest U.S. carrier said the Wi-Fi would operate in spectrum that could interfere with the Advanced Wireless Spectrum the carrier owns.

Earlier this month, the FCC conducted tests near Seattle to see if there was any potential interference. The agency published the raw data of the tests, but offered no interpretation of the results.

Startup M2Z Networks, which is a major proponent of the free Wi-Fi plan, said last week the tests confirmed that there are no technical barriers to the FCC's plan, and that the carriers are just fearful of competition. The company also said T-Mobile's protection requests were far too demanding and, if enacted, would mean that Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and even microwave ovens would cause interference.

T-Mobile, AT&T, and the CTIA didn't see the tests in the same manner, and said the tests proved there would be interference.

"Unlike M2Z, [our observers] have actual extensive experience and knowledge in the testing of wireless devices and compatibility," T-Mobile said in a statement.

T-Mobile is also asking the FCC to offer an interpretation of the results, as an unbiased opinion from the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology could go a long way toward settling the issue.

"A reasonable comment period would give the public a chance to review those conclusions before the Commission acts in reliance on them," Thomas Sugrue, T-Mobile's VP of governmental affairs, wrote to the FCC.

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