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DOD vs. 802.11b 352

goombah99 writes "The NY times (reg required) reports that "The Defense Department, arguing that an increasingly popular form of wireless Internet access could interfere with military radar, is seeking new limits on the technology". It would seem they have a good point; radar is an essential for both defense and civilian aviation as well as ship navigation in tight quarters. Critics of the restrictions contend technology can limit the interference, but what proof is there to these assertions? Sure we all want wireless internet but maybe there should be more careful review of its consequences."
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DOD vs. 802.11b

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  • fear mongering (Score:5, Informative)

    by dbrower ( 114953 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @01:58PM (#4908526) Journal
    it's not about current wifi, but about expansion into the 5ghz band being debated. there are no current examples of interference.


    • Baloney! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cosmosis ( 221542 )
      Dbrower - you are absolutely rigght. All of this stuff about interference is pure BS. Software Defined Radio [sdrforum.org] combined with Open Spectrum renders interference problems obsolete. Ironically, it was the military who invented software defined radio in the first place!

      I would say this has more to do with either pure ignorance on the part of the DOD, or an excuse to squash this liberating technology.

      Planet P Weblog [planetp.cc] - Personal Liberty with Technology.
      • Re:Baloney! (Score:5, Informative)

        by krlynch ( 158571 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:40PM (#4908895) Homepage

        More likely than ignorance, they (DOD scientists and engineers) are probably concerned that this new use of spectrum previously allocated for air traffic control, weather data collection, and defense purposes will cause problems for OLD radar equipment that IS NOT capable of changing frequencies. You know, the backwards compatibility problem. There are billions and billions of dollars worth of government (military and civilian) radar systems that could be affected, and no one is talking about paying to replace or upgrade those systems to eliminate the potential for interference.

        Reading (somewhat between the lines of) the article, I find explicitly or implicitly the following points:

        • There exist critical radar systems for civilian and military air traffic control, as well as weather radar that CAN'T change the frequencies they are operating on.
        • The spectrum they have been allocated and are currently using is a logical location to put new WiFi capabilities, in geographic areas where they won't cause radar interference.
        • In areas where there is potential for interference, the manufacturers of new WiFi gear have designed their new systems to choose spectrum such that they don't interfere with those radars, in anticipation of those spectrum bands becoming available for such use.
        • The DOD is concerned that these designs do not provide sufficient guarantees that they won't cause the interference DOD is concerned about
        • The industry is unwilling (either because they don't think it is necessary, or they don't want to spend the money ... take your pick) to go back to the drawing board and make stronger signal isolation guarantees.
        • The two sides are lobbying the FCC to see the truth of their beliefs.

        I don't see a big conspiracy here ... just two groups of people that don't quite agree with the technical points raised by the other side, and a number of issues that need more study before everyone will be happy.

        While I wouldn't mind faster and more capable WiFi, I'd much rather that the tech industry be forced to make changes to ensure that interference won't be a problem NOW than having to do so AFTER someone's web surfing causes a plane to disappear from air traffic control screens ....

      • Re:Baloney! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mesocyclone ( 80188 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:58PM (#4909027) Homepage Journal
        Baloney yourself!

        Neither software defined radio nor the Open Spectrum initiative renders interference problems obsolete. Saying otherwise is about as meaningful as saying that modern computing repeals the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics!

        Radios of any sort increase the energy in the bandwidth that they use. This is true whether they are narrowband traditional radios or ultramodern, cellularized, spread spectrum or ultra-wideband radios of the future.

        Any radio receiver has to pull its desired signal out of the ambient noise. That noise consists of natural noise (thermal noise, spherics, astronomical sources, etc) and man-made noise (either noise-like signals or coherent signals). Many radio systems must operate close to the theoretical edge of practicality. The military and reconnaisance organizations especially need to operate with very small noise margins - their ability to do so is one of their advantages.

        Increasing the ambient signal levels do degrate the capabilities of these systems. That is trivially proven.

        Open Spectrum is an approach to improve bandwidth sharing. That is all it is - it is not a magic panacea that somehow makes interference vanish. Software Defined Radio is simply processing radio signals in software. It also doesn't change the underlying physics.

        Consider the issue of radar... radar operates with an inverse-fourth law (the radar equation). The return signal is inversely proportional to the fourth power of the range. Normal radio operates by an inverse square law. Thus radar is especially vulnerable to interference.

        To put a little numeracy in here... let's look at a 5GHz space based radar. Assume it outputs 1000 watts peak power (power is very expensive in orbit, you know) from an altitude of 150 miles. Assume the antenna shapes this to 100,000 watts effective radiated power (ERP).

        By the time this reaches the earth, it is about 1E-7 watts per square meter. Assume the radar wants to image an area of 100 meters. This is 1E-3 watts or 1 milliwatt. A *single* WiFi stations puts out 10s of milliwatts. Thus if you have one WiFi per 100 square meters, you will have ambient "noise" of 20-30 decibells above the radar signal.

        So, this is not a trivial issue. Of course, coherent integration can overcome much higher SNR's, but only at a cost (it requires much more time per resolution area, reducing the overall capability of the system).

        In other words, there ain't no free lunch.

        The Pentagon has the services of the best experts around to advise it on issues like this. Discounting their objections out of hand is arguing from either ignorance or opinion, not science or engineering. Determining whether their objections are appropriate in this case is a matter for analyses far more complex than will appear on slashdot, and in some cases, probably will require access to very sensitive classified information.
      • Re:Baloney! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GooberToo ( 74388 )
        I would say this has more to do with either pure ignorance on the part of the DOD, or an excuse to squash this liberating technology.

        Certainly sounds reasonable considering a large enough network built using wireless could effectively prevent a large segment of traffic from ever going across major backbones. That means in some instances, the DoD's net and ISP sniffing technologies will be greatly snubbed.
    • Re:fear mongering (Score:4, Interesting)

      by corebreech ( 469871 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:25PM (#4908792) Journal
      Fear mongering? No current examples of interference???

      No current examples of interference are possible, since our military appears to be completely incompetent!

      Consider 9/11. At approximately the same time the first airliner struck the World Trade Center, the flight that was to hit the Pentagon went NORDO, i.e., was identified as a hijacked aircraft. This thing was tracked on radar for FIFTY FUCKING MINUTES before crashing into THE FUCKING PENTAGON of all places and the fine men and women charged with protecting our airspace DID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO PREVENT IT!

      It takes big balls on their part to now say that we can't do any further development on WiFi because it will impair the military use of radar. I fail to see how military radar can be rendered any more ineffective.
      • What were they supposed to do? Shoot the planes down and have them crash into a neighborhood?

        Densely populated NYC suburbs extend out in a 75 mile or more radius. I suppose crashing fully loaded jets into schools and apartment buildings would have been an effective use of military power.
      • The only person with the authority to give the order to shoot down a civilian airliner is the President, who was sitting in a classroom like a stunned sloth for a half hour instead of being a President. The military was competent. Bush was not.

        If he had gotten up and actually acted, the planes would have been followed by fighter planes, and given authorization, shot down before they got close enough to take out the towers.

        It wasn't the military's fault. Hell, I think they took out the flight over Pennsylvania -- the blast debris was too widely scattered for a crash.

        Bush sat like a deer frozen in headlights instead of giving the order to shoot if necessary. Without his OK, there could be no shootdown.

        Then he ran away. The story about the White House being under threat was later dismissed by the White House, to the utter disinterest of reporters.

        If Clinton had failed to get out of that chair, and those planes had hit the buildings... if he had fled to Louisiana... he'd have impeached the next week. Trent Lott and all the other patriots who gave Bush their fawning support would have personally shot Clinton, if he had shown the stupidity and cowardice displayed by Bush.

        Had to be said. The planes hit because the order was never give to shoot. The order wasn't given because Bush just sat there, listening to some children.
        • No argument about Bush...

          But no order was needed to put the planes in the air in the first place. They tracked Flight 77 for over forty minutes before even scrambling aircraft to intercept.

          They can scramble to intercept without an order from the President.

          If the military wasn't incompetent, then they were complicit.
        • Re:fear mongering (Score:4, Insightful)

          by saider ( 177166 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @04:26PM (#4909852)
          Well said from the comfortable position of 1 year's worth of contemplation.
        • Re:fear mongering (Score:5, Insightful)

          by stinky wizzleteats ( 552063 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @04:50PM (#4910026) Homepage Journal

          If he had gotten up and actually acted, the planes would have been followed by fighter planes, and given authorization, shot down before they got close enough to take out the towers.

          I notice your conspicuous use of the plural term "towers" above. Do you honestly mean to suggest that on the morning of 9/11, before the first tower was struck, it was appropriate and justifiable behavior to shoot down airliners that were flying off-course?

          Let's take the discussion further. Let's move to just after the first plane crash. Do you expect the president of the United States to authorize the destruction of every airliner in U.S. airspace which is off-course because one happened to run into a building?

          I don't know what a careful decision on the part of the Commander in Chief to use deadly force against innocent civilians looks like in your political universe, but I sleep better at night knowing that my president is reluctant to take such action.

        • Re:fear mongering (Score:3, Insightful)

          by finkployd ( 12902 )
          Well geeze, where were you if you knew these four planes were being hijacked to ram into buildings? You should have been telling the military to shoot down any hijacked planes because unlike the vast majority of hijacked planes, you know these ones were going to use used in this way.
          What a gift your forsight could have been, it is a shame our President did not have the gift you appearently did.

        • Re:fear mongering (Score:3, Informative)

          by mesocyclone ( 80188 )
          What a load of .... ahistorical disinformation!

          It was not clear what was happening at first. There were no fighters that could intercept in time - some were launched but didn't get there fast eough.

          The fact that Washington might come under attack was not immediately obvious. In fact, nobody knew it was terrorism until the SECOND plane hit the WTC. By that time, the third plane was getting close to hitting (it was also flying low, with the transponder turned off, and was very hard to track on civilian radar). And most people don't realize that the US normally had ZERO armed fighters aloft, and only a few on standby alert for the entire east coast.

          As far as the flight over PA... the crash was witnessed. It was not a military attack. The debris was not scattered over a wide area, but rather confined to the small area typical of high speed flight into the ground at a high angle.

          The president wanted to return to DC. His advisors wisely suggested he do otherwise until the magnitude of the threat could be determined. It was some time before it was determined that there were no more rogue aircraft up there.

          If Clinton had been president, he would have sent a few more cruise missiles up the rear of a few more camels, and then gone crying to the United Nations. Oh, and he would have blown up a pharmaceutical factory somewhere. It was Clinton who failed to take Al Queda seriously in the first place - missing opportunities to capture Bin Laden. Furthermore, Clinton's "impeachment war" was widely recognized throughout the world as a phony war meant to distract from political embarassment. As such, it further inflamed the Arab world when they saw a US President willing to kill Arabs for his own personal gain!

          Oh, btw... the order WAS given to shoot down the PA flight if it came into striking range of a major target.
  • by bizitch ( 546406 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @01:59PM (#4908536) Homepage
    This means WAR!! (driving)
  • Concerns (Score:5, Insightful)

    by coreman ( 8656 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:01PM (#4908542) Homepage
    Well, they'd better tighten up the radars to deal with it else they've just given an off the shelf solution to interfering with these radars, and told interested parties about it.

    Consider the impact of a Beowulf cluster of these!
  • by guacamolefoo ( 577448 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:01PM (#4908543) Homepage Journal
    Recently in the ex-Yugoslav mess, I believe that there were reports of the use of cell towers to track the "stealth" bomber, so who needs radar? Besides, is the DOD planning on bombing Starbucks? One can only hope!

    • From my understanding, folks would simply watch the Stealth figher's come in and call in reports of the planes. Highly low tech, but moderatley effective.
    • Nope. (Score:4, Informative)

      by glrotate ( 300695 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:11PM (#4908646) Homepage
      According to this article it was a modification of existing radar.

      Some aviation experts suspect the Serbs used a crude version of passive radar -- plugging computers into their existing air defense system -- to locate an F-117A Nighthawk stealth bomber, shot down in 1999. [usatoday.com]

      Also from the article:

      John Hansman, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said passive radar is still in its "infancy, but is something that will lead to new stealth research."

      "This is another trick that will force stealth researchers to push forward," Hansman said.

      All in all just another iteration in spy v spy.
      • Re:Nope. (Score:2, Informative)

        According to this article it was a modification of existing radar.

        According to the same article, it was also radar based on interpreting cel tower signals:

        "WASHINGTON (AP) -- America's stealth bombers may be in danger of having their cover blown by a new type of radar that uses cell phone technology, researchers say.

        The Air Force says the problem is limited and America's stealth fleet is in no danger. Yet U.S. intelligence reports label the radar a serious threat, and several scientists say they agree.

        "We're talking about radar technology that can pinpoint almost any disturbance in the atmosphere," said Hugh Brownstone, a physicist at the Intergon Research Center in New York who has worked for the cell phone giant Nokia.

        "You might not be able to distinguish between a stealth plane and a normal one, but you might not need to," he said. "The point is, you can see the stealth plane as a blip."

        The potential risk comes from radar towers used by cell phone companies to draw in signal patterns. The new technology, called passive radar, watches signals from common cell phone transmissions. When a plane passes through, it leaves a hole in the pattern, giving away its location.

        Traditional radar -- the kind stealthy B-2 and F-117A bombers can fool with their angles and radar-absorbing paint -- sends out signals and waits for them to bounce off large objects in the sky and return."

  • by MetricT ( 128876 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:01PM (#4908544)
    802.11 is only used by terrorists and degrades our ability to conduct military strikes against Starbucks...
  • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:01PM (#4908545) Journal
    Don't wifi/802.whatever/etc have power outputs in the milliwatts? Military radars work with hundreds of watts.

    And if these technologies do jam radars, is there an application in the field of speeding ticket avoidance?

    • Re:Interference? (Score:5, Informative)

      by voodoopriestess ( 569912 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:06PM (#4908596) Homepage
      Most modern radars have attenuation and can handle a wide range of RF frequencies. This can be from 0.5 GHz to 40 GHz. Mobile phones and current WIFI inhabit the 2.5 GHz range (commonly refered to as CD band) and is dealt with seperately to the rest of the microwave bands (E-J and K). A WIFI adapter will NOT jam a military radar but rather show up as an unknown emitter which in a time of war will generally cause the ship/plane/helicopter to go "defensive" and defend against the potential threat!
      • A WIFI adapter will NOT jam a military radar but rather show up as an unknown emitter which in a time of war will generally cause the ship/plane/helicopter to go "defensive" and defend against the potential threat!

        ... meaning that you'd better have a fast vehicle if you go wardriving near any military installation because you might just end up with a HARM missile chasing your SUV down the interstate. Although if you're in a suicidal mood, you could ping something from your car and mock the HARM missile as it locks onto the emitter, which shut down after sending the echo-request packet, causing the missile to loose lock, after a bit your wifi card sends out another icmp-request packet, causing the HARM missile to momentarily re-aquire a lock onto you again, etcetera.

        Can you imagine some poor pilot having to report to his CO why his HARM missile is continously losing lock in the middle of NYC?

      • show up as an unknown emitter which in a time of war will generally cause the ship/plane/helicopter to go "defensive" and defend against the potential threat!

        So, one $10 wifi card can be traded for one $10,000,000 radar seaking misile? Oh dear, that's worse than hitting a camel in the butt next to an empty tent. What's that myserious uptick in demand for 802.11? Why is it that portions of "no fly zones" are starting to look like New York? Ahhhh!

        Me thinks the DoD had better get smarter than that. Shutting down wifi in the US will not keep others from exploiting this problem.

      • That could get pretty ugly. Or perhaps an EA-6b could fry your ibook :)
    • Re:Interference? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Detritus ( 11846 )
      A radar may have a very high ERP (effective radiated power), but the signal returned from an illuminated target is small. You have the path loss to and from the target. That is what makes it possible to jam a radar with a modest transmitter.
    • Don't wifi/802.whatever/etc have power outputs in the milliwatts? Military radars work with hundreds of watts.
      The generated signal may be hundreds of watts, but the received echo is far below miliwatts. Radar designers have to use really smart tricks to avoid jamming themselves.
      And if these technologies do jam radars, is there an application in the field of speeding ticket avoidance?
      The radars used by cops operate somewhere near the visible wavelengths (hundreds of nanometers). That is much shorter than military radars (centimeters, as far as I remember). I don't think wifi interferes with that.
    • By announcing to the whole world that they can't deal properly with ordinary WiFi, the military is encouraging terrorists to interfere in those frequency ranges. Which means terrorists and military regimes could buy cheap, off-the-shelf WiFi, amplify the signal to make sure it gets noticed (if it's strong enough it could even interfere), and scatter the transmitters all over the place to keep the military busy tracking down ghosts.

      A friend of mine (just as an experiment; I wasn't involved) once tried driving down the road with a box that repeated speed detector signals back to cops with a slight frequency shift (to mimic the Doppler effect) and amplified (to block the correct signal). His speed was legal, but the cop started banging on the speed detector because it either said he was going really slow or insanely fast (exaggerated enough that it couldn't possibly be correct). Needless to say, you can't buy such a box legally ;-)
  • by spacecomputer ( 545222 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:01PM (#4908553) Homepage
    Last I checked it was the FCC that was responsible for the allocation of spectrum in the United States and territories. They are the arbitrator of interference issues. In short: I use WiFi, if there is a problem then the FCC, not me, is to blame.
    • I was going to reply to this in your way. This is absolutely right. Isnt the FCC supposed to check what frequencies are being used by what and allocate wavelengths accordingly? Why hasnt the NTSC complained (different frequecy radars I might guess), they are the one who actually need radar over our soil. What the heck are the military tracking other than training flights?
  • The solution [navy.mil].
  • by seosamh ( 158550 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:04PM (#4908571)
    The article says that DOD only wants a delay in the consideration, blah, blah...

    "The Pentagon wants regulators to delay consideration of opening an additional swath of radio frequencies..."

    It seems prudent to at least explore the possibility that wireless could degrade the use of radar (for military and civilian purposes) before jumping on this issue. The key to being responsible about it is to move quickly on the necessary research.
  • Priorities (Score:3, Funny)

    by Genuine669 ( 634832 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:04PM (#4908573)
    Maybe I'm wrong, but being an up and coming naval officer myself, I don't think there is much of an argument. Radar or wireless internet...radar or wireless internet... or maybe they could combine both..you know, ping someone, find their lag....and their distance =)
    • Re:Priorities (Score:2, Informative)

      by jhealy ( 91456 )
      Good to know our up and coming naval officers have a good grasp on the concepts of contemporary technology.
    • ... because when our planes start bombing our cities in the hunt for the terrorists I'd really hate to interfere with their bombing abilities ny the use of my WLAN.

      Just wait till the gov't finds out that the microwaves in our house transmit at similar frequencies to those that my WiFi card emits, except they do it at 700W.

      Maybe we shouldn't build our radar systems in the public spectrum.

      1. Buy microwave
      2. Remove shielding
      3. Sell "radar jammer"
      4 ?? Proft.

  • by Boulder Geek ( 137307 ) <archer@goldenagewireless.net> on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:05PM (#4908586)
    Choice quotes: "might cause interence", "not right now, but maybe in the future"... This is the Pentagon spreading FUD, and knowing the predilictions of the current administration, it all bodes very ill for wireless in general and WiFi in particular. In my quick scan of the article I didn't see any mention of 5Ghz or 802.11a, so it rationalizations that the Pentagon is looking at the UII band are misplaced.

    Consider yourselves warned.
    • Yeah, but I think the broader point is that it "might" cause interference; nobody knows, and the military just wants to put things on hold to test things out. Note that they talked not just about tracking systems, but also about possible interference with missile guidance. The people over at the DOD who work on these things all have PhDs in physics, so I'm assuming this isn't all BS.

      It would be a real, real shame if wireless tech interfered with long-range weapons systems so that, say, wireless tech in Israel caused enough interference for smart bombs in Iraq to hit a hospital instead of a weapons depot... I'm not saying its possible, I'm just saying that the possibility needs to be investigated, so that the military can redesign their systems to fix the problem.

      • The "BS" factor may well be within the writing of the article. The feds have plenty of PhDs working on this, but what of the somewhat anti-military New York Times?
    • by ryanvm ( 247662 )
      Choice quotes: "might cause interence", "not right now, but maybe in the future"... This is the Pentagon spreading FUD

      You're right - because we all know that heading off problems before they happen is a bad idea. Exactly what is wrong with a state agency issuing a statement that there is the potential for interference and that further investigation is warranted?

      and knowing the predilictions of the current administration, it all bodes very ill for wireless in general and WiFi in particular

      Huh? George Bush hates WiFi? WTF are you talking about? Lemme guess - you're referencing this article [slashdot.org]. In case you didn't read it, it basically says (according to Wired no less) that the Department of Defense thinks that open wireless networks have the potential to be dangerous. Guess what, they're right. Do you know how much damage even the lamest script kiddie can do from an open WiFi network? The danger comes from the fact that they're utterly anonymous. If he gets caught fucking up someone's network all he has to do is start his car and *poof* he's untraceable. That's pretty dangerous.
      • You're right - because we all know that heading off problems before they happen is a bad idea. Exactly what is wrong with a state agency issuing a statement that there is the potential for interference and that further investigation is warranted?

        Because they have no evidence of any such interference, or theoretical possiblity of such, and there are political and commercial objectives in suppressing WiFi, what they are doing is FUD -- intentional spreading of misinformation and leading questions to an advantageous end -- for them.

        As for the kiddies -- here's the thing. If the military and commercial forces keep their hands off of consumer-grade self-built 802.11x networks, the only people using it will be civilian enthusiasts. If a script kiddy brings down a segment, no big woof. Why should this be a government matter? Other than the fact that some in the big guv, and in corporations (same thing, really)want control of theses networks handed over to them, right now.

        It is FUD, as a means to an end: control.
        • Because they have no evidence of any such interference, or theoretical possiblity of such,

          Just because the NYT doesn't go into a detailed description of the problem, supported mathematically with physically rigorous arguments does not mean that the DOD guys have no evidence of a problem or theoretical reason to be concerned. That is, absence of evidence about this potential problem in the article is not evidence that there is no potential problem in the field. Reallocation of spectrum, or sharing of spectrum between new devces and old devices that were not designed with the new uses in mind always has the potential to lead to unacceptable interference.

          The concern is about new hardware that does not yet exist and is targetted for spectrum that has not been allocated for its use. The burden to prove that there will not be backwards compatibility issues in opening the spectrum to new use in on those wanting the access (the WiFi industry), not on those that already have access (ATC, weather radar, etc.) The argument in favor of opening the spectrum given in the article is a variation of "Trust us, it won't happen." Which may or may not be a faithful representation of the industry argument.

          Because of the circumstances, the theoretical arguments you claim don't exist actually do exist, and rather clearly come down on the side of the DOD in this case: it is a trivial matter of freshman physics to show that ANY multiple uses in a restricted geographic area of the same chunk of frequency can lead to interference. Which does not mean that in practice there will be issues with WiFi; the industry arguments may be correct, and interference may be a non-issue. THAT appears to be the DOD's main concern: what will happen in practice. So the question that DOD thinks should be answered before the spectrum reallocation occurs is: Are the guarantees given by the manufacturers about their anti-interference measures strong enough? I for one would prefer to find out the answer before planes fall out of the sky.

  • by nomadicGeek ( 453231 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:06PM (#4908593)
    Get on Amazon and order a whole mess of Linksys WAP 11's. Then get a hand on as many Pringles cans as possible (Pringle can antenna article) . This is the cheapest missile defense system you can build. [oreillynet.com]
  • Mr. President, about, uh, 35 minutes ago, General Jack Ripper, the commanding general of, uh, Burpelson Air Force Base, issued an order to the 34 B-52's of his Wing, which were airborne at the time as part of a special exercise we were holding called Operation War Driver. Now, it appears that the order called for the planes to, uh, attack their targets inside Russia. The, uh, planes are fully armed with nuclear weapons with an average load of, um, 40 megatons each. Now, the central display of Russia will indicate the position of the planes. The triangles are their primary targets; the squares are their secondary targets. The aircraft will begin penetrating Russian radar cover within, uh, 25 minutes.

    It, uh, appears that the whole misunderstanding was caused by a Wi-Fi access point in a Starbucks in Schenectady sir that confused General Ripper's signal corps.

  • Basically, the article says that WiFi might interfere with Radar. I don't think anybody wants that, so rather than just scare everybody, they should do some studies and find out. If it does, they will most likely restrict the locations that it is available, and if it doesn't then we should move on to more interesting problems.
  • So they complain when something might interfere with their navigation, but not when they interfere [wired.com] with the navigation of whales?

    Dual standards as usual...

  • by Kredal ( 566494 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:08PM (#4908625) Homepage Journal
    "Sir, there's a wireless access point at 30,000 feet, coming straight for us! The good news is, we can anonymously surf pr0n for the next 15 minutes... the bad news is that the access point is loaded with 50 megatons worth of bombs!"
  • Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fnkmaster ( 89084 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:11PM (#4908645)
    Didn't it occur to them to talk to the FCC about this, and the standards bodies that set up the 802.11a standard BEFORE products were out there on the market? If they missed the boat with this, then somebody's fucking head should roll. What a bunch of idiots. Fire whoever is responsible for failing to bring this up in the first place and make them personally liable for business losses to companies if they have to pull products off the market. That'll teach em.
  • If the military is indeed concerned about the expansion of WIFI systems, I wonder what the SETI project thinks? Does anyone know if it makes any difference to them?
    • Re:SETI Concerns? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by 1fitz2many ( 409956 )
      I think all astronomers, not just SETI folk, are concerned about interference. Remember, these signals may not look like random noise.

      Radio interference is a problem in astronomy that continues to grow. Astronomers consider the amount of interference as an important factor when choosing sites for new arrays, sometimes situating them in valleys to help mitigate these effects. Indeed, there are radio-quiet zones around major facilities, where (e.g.) cell-phone use is prohibited.

      I'm sure some astronomers would be smirking at the military now getting concerned about interference problems (when the military generally didn't care about their systems interfering with astronomy), if it were not for the fact that these problems affect us all.
  • by Flamesplash ( 469287 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:13PM (#4908678) Homepage Journal
    Apparantly this only works one way. There have been a lot of articles out lately about Navy sonar and other artificially generated waves interfering with Whale communications.

    I wonder what they would do if the Whales went and destroyed facilities developing the devices that mess with them. Now if only they could get them to do the main development on ships, then the time of the Whale will come upon us. MWUAHAHAHAHA
  • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:14PM (#4908681)
    Despite the misleading headline inserted by slashdot editors, the article refers to an"increasingly popular" wireless technology in the 5Ghz band.

    The pentagon is not trying to poop on the wifi party. And they are not out to supress info transfers. They just want to make sure that a stupid irrversible giveaway of the wrong band does not take place. Apparently a lot of next generation radars need this band and depend upon a noise free environement. for example the article notes weather radar. Believe me getting a radar return of gas is very very difficult. Even high power radars are not the whole answer--the return signals are weak and fall off 1/r^2 limiting the range.

    My fear is that the bush admin will give way to the coroprate interests. Microsoft is one of them mentioned in the article. these companies have dumped tons of money into campaign contributions. And the easy thing for the bush admin to do is to do nothing at all.

    regardless of your misgivings about the department of defenses other activities, having good radar is a swell idea that we all can benenefit from.

    presumably there might be some techno fix that could make all happy. But remember these radar systems take years to design. Its not just about making the latest up-to-date technology but also about quality assurance, standards and interoperability. So just saying they could be redesigned is not a valid response. You dont retrofit safety systems on a whim because some thinks they can make it better. Murphy's law will get you. And its often better to have standardized less than state of the art systems people know the limitiations of than a myriad of superior technologies they dont know the relaibaility of.

  • the terrorists have already won.
  • Ha ha! (and 1984) (Score:3, Insightful)

    by famazza ( 398147 ) <fabio,mazzarino&gmail,com> on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:16PM (#4908695) Homepage Journal

    Forget it! This will be another great technology that will no longer be avaiable in US.

    But pay attention, acording to Goldenstein (984)continuous state of war serves as an excuse to cut civil rights avoiding protests!

    • 4, Insightful?! How is this not just offtopic, troll-bait FUD? He makes exactly one meaningful claim and provides zero reason for believing it. His other "claim" is supported by a fictional character and is only related tangentially to the topic. (I believe the line of "reasoning" he's using here is "the DoD is talking, the DoD is in charge of wars, Bush runs the DoD, Ashcroft is a Bush employee, therefore the DoD is trying to start a war so Ashcroft can restrict our civil rights." That's about as far off-topic as you can get.)

      I guess this works out to a simple "mod parent down" post. So here's something on-topic. I remember reading once an article complaining about how some medical groups are trying to stop people from drinking alcohol at all, for the usual reasons. The article was saying that, if you live your life never doing anything unhealthy, you're going to have a pretty miserable life; and that unhealthy things, in moderation, can have many positive effects (psychologically, for example). My response to that article was: "It's the job of those groups not to consider anything except our health. We, as individuals, need to make the decisions on what's more important to us, and what our definition of 'moderation' is."

      My point? It's the same deal here. Of course the DoD is only going to be concerned about how a civilian technology affects military technology. It's their job. It's the job of other agencies, like the FCC and Congress, to decide whether the military's concerns outweigh those of the civilian sector. Don't read too much into this. I think it's perfectly valid that the military has a say in how something like this might work out (especially if it interferes with airport radar and such, which have critical peacetime uses). If you are very concerned as this, you should, as always, write your congresscritter (especially if he's on one of the oversight committees that deals with this sort of thing).

  • The wrong target? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bald_spot ( 537892 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:17PM (#4908715) Homepage
    According to This article [hometoys.com], The most important source of interference in the band is commercial microwave ovens, of which there are over 100 million in use in the US alone.
  • Home radar jamming? (Score:5, Informative)

    by OYAHHH ( 322809 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:20PM (#4908744) Homepage

    Done a lot of civilian radar track data analysis and I can tell you that radar data is already littered with LOTS (and I mean LOTS) of inaccuracy.

    I've seen cases where the data loss was so bad that I can hardly imagine the situation where joe-schmoe-bin-ladin with his laptop and homemade radar jamming equipment could make it any worse.

    It's one of those situations where if you knew what the ingrediants were you might not want to eat it.

    I certainly don't have a problem with the DOD wanting to limit radio encroachments into vital wavelengths.

    But, sometimes I get the feeling that the military is crying wolf when the wolf has been there the entire time and nobody in the know is brave enough to admit it.

  • ....these [wayport.net] airports, to be exact.

    Anyone ever hear of any planes crashing at any of these due to the 802.11 WAPs in use? No? I didn't think so.

  • by six11 ( 579 ) <johnsogg@NoSPAm.cmu.edu> on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:21PM (#4908752) Homepage
    "Hello, is this the Bad Guys? This is Col. Sanders of the US Army. Listen, do you think you could tell your advancing armies to please stop jamming our systems with those pesky wireless networking signals? It's really making it difficult to prevent you from invading us. What's that you say? We should have thought of this? Well, yeah, we
    did, but we dealt with it by telling our citizens to knock it off. Hey, it worked for them, why should it be any different with you?"
  • Yeah riiiight (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phr2 ( 545169 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:24PM (#4908779)
    Free wifi is going to interfere with military radar, but I bet when some big-money corporate interest group wants those same frequencies, they will get them with no radar objections being raised. We don't hear about UHF television interfering with radar either, or 1.8 ghz cell phones, etc. This is just another scam on the goverment's part to interfere with private communications.
  • The UNI-II band (the unliscensed but regulated chunk of spectrum located around 5GHz) has been set aside for quite some time and the devices have limits that put their power at such low levels that they should not interfere with any existing users of the space. In fact most 802.11a devices have connection ranges well under 100', if the power is so low that they can't even communicate much past 80-100' how can they possibly interfere with multi hundred or thousand watt radar installations, especially when those installations are almost all looking up? Besides if they cut off the consumer bands they lose a source of cheap communications gear that allows them to spend money elsewhere. For instance we supplied large amount of gear free to the national guard for use on 9/12 and the weeks following the tradgedy. This equipment was extremely usefull because almost all of the existing infastructure was ruined because it had been on the fallen towers or relied on facilities that had been in them.
  • ...Reading this article would make me want to encourage WiFi usage in my country in case the US came a knockin'.

    "sorry your radar doesn't work as well as you wanted."

    The military is complaining about US use of spectrum that is used by civilians worldwide. Seems they'd have to deal with those issues when dealing with other parts of the world so they might as jolly well deal with it here.
  • by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:39PM (#4908879) Homepage
    Sure, tell EVERYONE what radio frequencies they need to use to jam US military radar. Sheesh.
  • Au Contraire ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fygment ( 444210 )
    ... _we_ should worry about interference. As a naval elec officer I recall we had to shut down our radars before coming into the harbour because they wrought havoc with the digital phone switching systems in the area. Wireless users arise and get the military to shut down their PRON interference systems!
  • Using ISM Bands (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CutterDeke ( 531335 )
    Wireless communications devices like WiFi equipment use ISM (Industrial, Scientific and Medical) frequencies set aside for unlicensed usage. Many devices emit in these frequencies. Why is the military targeting wireless LAN applications?

    Seems that the military should have taken this into account in the original specs of their equipment.

  • so all it takes to shut down the U.S. military is a couple Wi-Fi transmitters?
    I would hope the military would be able to cope with substantially more intereference than a lowly Wi-Fi access point. Otherwise, they might as well turn out the lights.
  • by t0qer ( 230538 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @02:52PM (#4908987) Homepage Journal
    would be barebacked doin the nasty sleepin in bed together. I think slash has fallen to an all new low.

    We all know GWB and his little gang of croonies have been silently moving to gain "control" over the internet. They've enlisted the help of the RIAA and MPAA plus their teams of lawers to overpower the routers of major backbone providers with threats of bankrupcy. Those that play ball such as AT&T will have their right of way taxes deferred, those like worlcom will have to suffer.

    They want it controlled for "our safety" "We don't want no stinkin terrorist using "Our network" to transmit dirty messages to bad 'ol osama (read satan)

    They want it controlled to keep the ever slipping grip of media copyright back in the hands of the huge players like sony, virgin, capitol records, ect. Who cares if it hurts the smaller labels.

    And killing 802.11 would be a major win to them because it's such a "pirate radio station" They can't control it and that scares them. The worst thing is seeing slash become party to the "psychological warfare and FUD" the .gov is trying to spread about 802.11

    I can't really comment about the technical aspects of if this REALLY affects radar, but as an american citizen watching this issue, I can.

    A smart person would look at thier reasons and say, "Hmm, messages, oh yeah, PGP mail... and uh people trading MP3, well can't do much there unless you cut off their ears"

    Instead of letting the smart people address this issue they're trying to play on our emotions and get the mob riled up. You are not a good american if you run a public 802.11 node. You are not patriotic for sharing MP3's. You're in bed with the terrorist for using encrypted e-mail.

    Well, this message too will probably be modded into oblivion too. As i'm sure /. has been given it's walking papers by the man. Either convince your .5 million readers we're right or we pull the plug. Fucking shameful, just shameful.
    • Have you seen the ads on TV: "This is Mary. This is Mary's nickel bag of Pot. This is Mary's dealer. This is Osama binLaden. Mary's dealer buys his quarter pounds from Osama." The govt. is trying to connect EVERYTHING to terrorism! They want control over EVERYTHING...and they're doing it in the name of 'protecting' us! The propoganda machine is running full tilt 24/7.......
  • This would be the same military radar that wipes out most of the FM stations' 950 Mhz Studio transmitter links in San Francisco when ships sail into the harbor and forget to turn it off? Or would this be the same military that insured the U.S. would have a second class digital radio service with no additional station possibilities for the next 50 years. Or is it the same military radio that operates between TV channels 4 and 5 and wipes both of them out part of the time. No wait...I remember now...it's the military that opeates wherever they want to WHENEVER they want to! That doesn't have to comply with FCC regulations like the rest of us. That could gie a f**k who they wipe out in the process of doing their thing....even if it causes their citizens' cancer (ever hear of 'PAVE PAWS"?). THAT military! This 'land grab' our Govt. is doing in the name of 'fighting terrorism' is beginning to both piss me off and scare me............
  • ...there is more risk to the WiFi networks being jammed by military radar than the other way around. The newest radar's pump out hundreds to thousands to millions of watts of power depending on the type of radar and the platform. Plus, today's military radar's are frequency agile and extremely adaptable to interference and jamming. This appears to be just another attempt by the DOD/DOJ/Big Brother Government to control things that they feel are a threat to their control.
  • If 802.11b gear ever starts picking up the same frequencies used by radars, then it's the network stuff that is going to be in trouble, not the radars. The radars are much more powerful emitters than the network stuff could ever think of being.
  • A wifi emmitter operating in the 5ghz band could potentially draw attention from a HARM anti radiation missile...of course if it slams a laptop/cell phone/pda/SUV yuppie type, I wouldnt be sure if this would be a tragedy or a victory...
  • by blate ( 532322 )
    Doesn't Wi-Fi run on an "unregulated" frequency, as specified by the FCC? This means that any device using this spectrum must accept interference from other devices in this spectrum, such as microwaves and cordless phones.

    This seems like a thinly-veiled attempt to limit personal freedom and access to the internet, IMHO. If the millitary is using radar in these spectra, that's their fault; they must deal with it and not blame their ineptitude on the wireless internet community.
  • I remember my first term physics professor when a cell phone once rang during lecture:
    "If this goes on, every form of radio astronomy will soon be absolutely impossible"

    The coolest reaction to annoying cell phones I ever heard.
  • by JohnnyCannuk ( 19863 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @03:57PM (#4909583)
    Sounds like a good time to switch to/invest in a new 802.11x ultra-wide-band solution.

    UWB, as I understand it, sends out nano-second pulses over a wide band of frequencies. These pulses sound like regular "noise" if they are detectable at all. Best part they don't interfere with existing signals on any particular frequency. They can be used for communications or specialized radar (ground penetrating, seeing through walls to find people etc).

    So either your DOD swithces it's radar or gets your FCc to allow higher power UWB (currently the range is limited to about 10 meters...great for a UWB mesh network ;) )

    Anyway, I may not be the most knowledgable in the field, so someone ca correct me but this sounds like a great opportunity to make a better more decentralized technology take hold

  • by flatulus ( 260854 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @04:26PM (#4909848)
    There is so much misinformation in both the NY Times article and the discussion here on /., I just have to set the record straight:

    1) The DoD is concerned about the 5 GHz U-NII (Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure) band -- which is where 802.11a (not 802.11b) operates. This is a recently opened band.

    2) There is no way the DoD can mount a plausible objection to 802.11b, as it operates in the 2.4 GHz ISM (Industrial, Scientific, and Medical) band. The ISM band is the home to microwave ovens, which frequently "leak" 30 times more RF than an 802.11b "intentionally" transmits. There are industrial applications of the 2.4 GHz ISM band that emit KILOWATTS of RF. The 2.4 GHz band is, in essence, the junkyard of the microwave spectrum.

    3) The IEEE 802.11 committee is already working on interference mitigation techniques to make 802.11 radios more "friendly" to radar in the 5 GHz band. This is the work of Task Group H. The two major innovations being hammered out in that task group are DFS and TPC (dynamic frequency selection and transmit power control). Both of these are mandated by the European Union's regulatory bodies, in order to open up 5 GHz for 802.11 radios. When ratified, this will lead to an 802.11h radio, which is functionally analogous to 802.11a, but with DFS and TPC. At that time it is likely that 802.11a will wither on the vine, being replaced with 802.11h in the U.S. also. (Note: 802.11a is legal only in the U.S. today. And DoD is basically following the EU's lead in expressing concern about interference to radar. That's what the NYT article meant about Europe being "ahead" in this matter.)

    4) While the FCC is in charge of CIVILIAN use of the RF spectrum, they are not the sole arbiter of RF in the United States. The rest of the job is done by the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration), which is the caretaker for government use of spectrum. For the FCC to open up the 5 GHz spectrum, they needed approval from the NTIA first (which they got).

    Summary: "But the times they are a' changin."

    Basically the DoD is trying to head off proliferation of 802.11a before it's too late. Of course, the market leading vendors (e.g. Atheros) are none too happy about this, and I don't blame them. Changing the rules after they invest many millions in development of a product on the basis of an expectation of marketability would make even the most accommodating entrepreneur cranky :)
  • DoD FUD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by markcic ( 45724 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @05:41PM (#4910528)
    This is FUD generated by the DOD. The FCC limits the EIRP (equivalent isotropically radiated power) of the ISM band used by 802.11. The allowable power levels for 802.11 are 1 watt using an omni-directional antenna and 4 watts for a directional antenna. I doubt the tinny amount of power these devices emitted will interfere with military radar. For more info about 802.11 power levels check out this 802.11 Planet [80211-planet.com] article.
  • by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @06:21PM (#4910951) Homepage
    I have read many of the comments made on this topice here in this forum. I understand that there seems to be a confusion as to whether this issue is related to 802.11a or 802.11b. Frankly, I don't think it matters.

    The fact is, 802.11x communication systems ARE REGULATED BY THE FCC. If they chose (or were ordered), they could easily deem the spectrum used by 802.11x to be off-limits to anyone! Sure, I have heard the comments like "but businesses have invested millions in 802.11 - they would howl" - perhaps they might. Or perhaps a transition would occur to make the larger companies happy, by providing some form of wireless that isn't available to the average consumer like 802.11x is - but still gives those communications companies a foothold in wireless comms, while making consumers happy, and also possibly providing an easy place for the feds to tap, while making community nets a thing of the past (think it impossible? Try to buy, as a consumer, your own TXRX system for a cell phone - good luck, if you can even afford it). Everyone (mostly) wins - except for the citizen, ne - consumer...

    I have said many times that the government has this (unelected, unrepresented) power via the FCC to do this (think I am joking? Do a search on my past comments, if you don't believe me). In these same comments, I have presented a solution that very few have worked on (at least on the homebrew front), that could keep community networks alive, a solution the government (FCC) cannot regulate (but oh how they would try - and if they succeeded, well - then that is the cue for true revolution):


    I daresay RONJA [jikos.cz] is probably the most advanced "homebrew" system out there (if anyone has links to more advanced stuff - such as on the order of homebrew sighting/retargeting systems like AirFiber's System [airfiber.com] - please post links!). Other links of interest:

    http://www.alphalink.com.au/~derekw/upn tcvr.htm

    http://www.hut.fi/Misc/Electronics/circu its/laserlink.html

    http://www.geocities.com/Silic onValley/Lakes/7156/laser.htm

    http://www.n1bug.ne t/tech/laser/laserfr.html

    http://www.n1bug.net/te ch/laser/alc_wa6ejo.html

    http://www.repairfaq.org /sam/lasersam.htm

    http://www.qsl.net/w1vlf/techin fo/optical_transmitters.html

    http://misty.com/peo ple/don/laserdon.html

    So - these systems have problems (line of sight being the largest) - but all systems have problems. At least one company (AirFiber) is using similar tech to run a business for WAN layouts - so it should be possible for a homebrew solution to be worked out. Are we going to simply wait until 802.11x really gets "outlawed" before we do something? What kind of shit is that?

    Oh - wait - this is /. - where apathy seems to almost be the rule when it comes to politics...

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court