Sunday, May 19, 2002

radio, radio

Bandwidth. When it comes to radio stations, it's limited. That's why the industry is so heavily regulated. What if that wasn't true? What if the limitations on picking up a radio station were the result of the transmitters and receivers that we use? Imagine that we had more intelligent means of broadcasting and reception that could tremendously increase our choices of frequencies.
In a panel discussion and interview last week at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in Santa Clara, Reed put in plain English some of the concepts he discussed at the FCC and which he has put online at his Web site ( Simply put, he said, we have to start looking at spectrum as an almost limitless commodity, not a scarce one.

The current regulatory regime that allocates spectrum ``is a legal metaphor that does not correspond to physical reality,'' he said.

Why not? First, he said, the notion of interference has more to do with the equipment we use to send and receive signals than with the physics of radio waves.

"Radio waves pass through each other," Reed said. "They do not damage each other."

In the early days of radio, the gear could easily be confused by overlapping signals. But we can now make devices that can sort out the traffic.
If true, this has the potential to open up the broadcasting industry. It also holds implications that today's communications companies might not want to think about. Much of the regulation of airwaves is based upon the thought that it is a limited commodity. How will that change if we find that it is virtually unlimited?

And, imagine if the radio stations also broadcast metadata about the songs and speech that they were transmitting? Camworld has an article on Metadata on the Radio from last December that, combined with news about an almost infinite spectrum of bandwidth, might change around the way people think about the future of radio.