FCC Auctions More Bandwidth. Likely Use? LMDS

So far, 139 qualified bidders have signed on for the FCC's new auction. Almost all are hoping to jump into the Local Multipoint Distribution Service business.

Using the microwave spectrum at 28 gigahertz, LMDS is a data, telephone, and television distribution system that does not require networks of copper wire or fiberoptic cable. LMDS transmission is reportedly five times faster than over dedicated T1 lines. One GHz of spectrum is available for each node, which serves an area with a three-mile radius. The same spectum can be used for differing transmissions by an adjacent node. The point-to-point service is expected to deliver high-speed, low-cost Internet and telephone service without the upfront hardware costs incurred by other communciations systems.

Microwave transceivers developed by LogiMetrics Inc. of Bohemia, NY, combined with high-speed broadband modems supplied by Integrity Communications of Richmond, WA, were demonstrated at the Satellite Communications '98 Exhibition in Washington, DC. Data launch/recovery was clocked at more than five times the T1 rate.

Easy access to real-time (or even compressed-time) downloads of music and movies becomes a likely reality with the widepread rollout of LMDS. But where will consumers store all this cheaply acquired new data?

Computer disk-drive maker Seagate Technology and IBM have both announced new advances in data storage. Last week, Seagate's Quinta division announced the technological breakthrough of combining traditional magnetic recording with microscopic lasers, as are used in CD and DVD players. Quinta's technique will increase data-storage-per-square-inch of disk surface by as much as 20 times.

The present theoretical limit, continually being revised, is somewhere between 20 and 40 billion bits per square inch. (IBM's Almaden Research Laboratory announced a major advance in disk storage capacity---11.6 billion bits per square inch---last December, covered in Stereophile's January "Industry Update," Vol.21 No.1.)

Other companies, such as Western Digital and Iomega, also have high-capacity products in development. Iomega's new Clik drive will store 40 megabytes of data on a 3.3" x 2.1" removable disk, at a cost of $10 each.

Advances in disk storage technology are presently outpacing parallel developments in static (silicon-based) memory. Further miniaturization could lead to computers and other products with multiple small disk drives instead of circuit boards packed with memory chips.

The average cost of disk storage was approximately 10 cents per megabyte at the end of 1997, according to Silicon Valley consulting company Disk/Trend Inc. The firm predicts that the cost will drop to 2 cents by the year 2000. Ten years ago, 1MB of disk space cost $11.52!