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Are We Really Breathing the Same Spectrum?

Spectrum is the finite airspace through which radio frequencies travel, making wireless communications possible. With the proliferation of gadgets and the prospects of 3G, spectrum allocation has been a long simmering issue on the home front. But spectrum requirements have also become a critical element in fighting 21st century wars.

Overseas, the use of wireless technology can be a very complicated matter. Network interoperability (or the lack thereof) at a most critical time—wartime—can result in missed communications and loss of life. Each country has its own regulatory agencies that control the allocation of spectrum, as well as issue policy mandates on network operating standards.

So what does this mean? Network interoperability may be merely an inconvenience during ordinary times, but when war breaks out, it can stifle the best of communications systems. By example, although I may have needed to call a business associate while on a recent business trip to Europe, his CDMA wireless phone (issued by a U.S. carrier) would not operate in Europe's GSM environment. This merely delayed our conversation by several days. However, because there is no predicting the geographic location of future conflicts, preparing essential communications systems to work around the globe has a multitude of ramifications.

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