The FCC Just Became Obsolete

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates the use of electromagnetic spectrum in the United States. One of the reasons there are so few cell phone service providers in this country is because one must first get a license for spectrum use from the FCC who sell off blocks in auctions, auctions that now end up in the billions of dollars. With spectrum costs so high it’s not surprising that new players don’t enter the market. The FCC claims this regulation is necessary because the alternative would be constant interference as wireless providers used spectrum that another company was using. While this argument isn’t true for various reasons it’s also now technologically irrelevant:

American and Israeli researchers have used twisted, vortex beams to transmit data at 2.5 terabits per second. As far as we can discern, this is the fastest wireless network ever created — by some margin. This technique is likely to be used in the next few years to vastly increase the throughput of both wireless and fiber-optic networks.

These twisted signals use orbital angular momentum (OAM) to cram much more data into a single stream. In current state-of-the-art transmission protocols (WiFi, LTE, COFDM), we only modulate the spin angular momentum (SAM) of radio waves, not the OAM. If you picture the Earth, SAM is our planet spinning on its axis, while OAM is our movement around the Sun. Basically, the breakthrough here is that researchers have created a wireless network protocol that uses both OAM and SAM.


According to Thide, OAM should allow us to twist together an “infinite number” of conventional transmission protocols without using any more spectrum. In theory, we should be able to take 10 (or 100 or 1000 or…) WiFi or LTE signals and twist them into a single beam, increasing throughput by 10 (or 100 or 1000 or…) times.

Humans have a propensity to find more efficient methods of utilizing scarce resources. That is why regulations that attempt to ration scarce resources are entirely unnecessary and even, in the case of subsidized resources, encourage consumption as current rates using current technology. This story is another demonstration of humans overcoming a limitation without needing to resort to legislative control.

Human ingenuity: 1, government control: 0.