Microsoft slams Globalstar's latest claim of no TLPS interference with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

While Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is accusing Globalstar of using misleading tactics to demonstrate its proposed terrestrial low power service (TLPS) does not interfere with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, another company is invoking Lily Tomlin's telephone operator character Ernestine to demonstrate how archaic Globalstar's proposal is for managing interference.

In separate filings with the FCC, the companies join a long list of entities, including the Wi-Fi Alliance and Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), that want the FCC to either look skeptically at or outright reject rules that would allow Globalstar to use TLPS to offer Wi-Fi-like services. In its latest demonstration at a student center on a college campus in Chicago, "Globalstar once again chose to conduct another managed demonstration, which is not a satisfactory substitute for rigorous peer-reviewable testing," Microsoft said in its filing.

Microsoft said the equipment used in Globalstar's latest demonstration at the college campus in Chicago used an enterprise-grade Ruckus model 7982 intended for indoor use. In the absence of any other information, Microsoft presumed the wireless local area network was a Meru-Education Grade system. The software giant said an important performance improvement of an enterprise-grade Wi-Fi access point, as compared to a commercial-grade Wi-Fi access point, is improved filtering of the transmitted and received Wi-Fi signal. However, the "vast majority" of access points in use today and in the future are or will be commercial-grade.

Microsoft also said Globalstar's filing lacks information on the operational parameters used during the compatibility demonstrations and that it doesn't address important use cases that Microsoft previously identified: namely, the quality of service for real-time, two-way video communications such as Skype and Skype for Business in high-density deployments; and system level testing of game consoles that use Bluetooth or Bluetooth-like communications.

Globalstar's proposal has drawn the ire of not only Microsoft but Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) as well, and the company has been defending its plan, which has been before the commission for more than two years. Globalstar in its Oct. 28 filing presented a declaration by Kenneth J. Zdunek, vice president and chief technology officer of Roberson and Associates, where he refuted various claims in letters filed by the Wi-Fi Alliance, the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and the Bluetooth SIG. Globalstar argued that both the Wi-Fi Alliance and Bluetooth SIG are controlled by corporations motivated by their own self-interests that want to stifle new and innovative uses of the ISM band. In the Chicago demonstration, Roberson and Associates used consumer-grade client devices, and according to Globalstar, the demonstration showed no effect from TLPS on the operation of multiple Bluetooth devices.

In fact, Globalstar argued that the Chicago demonstration confirmed that it can integrate TLPS operations on Channel 14 into existing Wi-Fi networks and thereby improve the experience of all who are using the network, without interfering with any of the current users in the band.

For its part, Etymotic Research, a manufacturer or products for people with hearing loss that operate in the 2.4 GHz ISM band using either Bluetooth or its own proprietary RF protocol, said the focus of Globalstar's demonstrations have been on the impact on Wi-Fi, when Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and other protocols that provide real-time voice services are the most vulnerable. It also said it agrees with the Bluetooth SIG on a number of points, including the assertion that it's wrong for one company to have its own rules for operating in the ISM band when "tens of thousands" of other companies are obliged to follow a different set of rules.

Etymotic also said one of the flaws in the testing process is a failure to evaluate the impact on Bluetooth Low Energy, which has an entirely different RF profile than Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and is increasingly important for the Internet of Things, sensors, medical devices and hearing instruments.

While Globalstar doesn't expect interference, it has proposed creating an interference mitigation system to provide a hotline to accept complaints and request remedies, the kind of system that Etymotic said is "completely out of date and out of touch" with how modern mobile communications operate.

"The vision of an NOS [network operating system] with operators, hotlines and human management brings to mind Lilly Tomlin's portrayal of a telephone operator," and for anyone who isn't familiar with her 1970s performance, the company included links to YouTube videos that feature the phone operator personality, including one where she's called to resolve an interference complaint.

For more:
- see this Microsoft filing
- see this Etymotic Research filing
- see this Globalstar filing

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