5G and the New Rules of Wireless: Part 2
How did I become a “MedHead”?
And what does it have to do with 5G?
MedHead is not a moniker for fans of physicians or producers of medical instruments or addicts of exotic medicines.
It is the name used by the millions of followers of Michael Medved’s daily talk-show, now being broadcasted from Israel during our joint Discovery Institute tour.
But I did not become a MedHead because of Michael, who I knew at the time only as a scintillating critic of Hollywood movies.
Nor was it because of Jonathan, his creative Israeli venture capitalist brother who helped propel the Israeli economy to its present eminence in high technology. Jon’s most recent venture, called “Our Crowd,” made $200 million in investments in Israeli technology in 2018 and became the world’s leading “crowd-funding” success.
Jon Medved recently ended an interview on the chief lesson of his life:
“Life is very, very short. I look toward my next thirty years and I hope that I will be able to dance at many of my grandchildren’s weddings, to drink a lot of good whiskey with friends on weekends, to sit on the beach and fish, and simultaneously to find investors for new initiatives” in new Israeli technology projects.
I learned about as many as 20 of these fantastic projects when I interviewed him this morning — everything from zapping cancer tumors with lasers to putting a $2 million mass spectrometer for molecular chemistry on a single chip.
But Jonathan did not make me a MedHead. I became a MedHead because before I met either Michael or Jonathan, I read a paper by their physicist father David Medved on the electromagnetic spectrum.
The Emergence of the Spectrum
David Medved — like me — was a spectrum maximalist and cornucopian.
He denied the usual depictions of the airwaves as resembling “beachfront property.” David did not imagine that spectrum is a scarce resource that would have to be husbanded by government and sold off at auctions to the highest bidders.
Beginning with a fiber optics company that he sold off to MRV, using the 1550 nanometer wavelength, he knew that it was possible to manipulate the spectrum and find its best uses. With new microchips and other devices, engineers developed erbium-doped amplifiers to boost the signal and “software-radios” to manipulate it.
In fiber optics, the industry moved to the 1550 nanometer band because it combined low attenuation and low absorption and enabled convenient lasers. But fiber optics only uses an infinitesimal span of waves.
The electromagnetic spectrum runs from zettahertz gamma rays at 10 to the 21 only picometers wide to radio waves in the kilohertz the size of football fields. Below that, there are even low-frequency pulses used to contact submarines through the water for scores of miles.
Today some fear-mongers suggest that 5G high frequencies pose a health threat. But as David Medved told me years ago, if you expose yourself to the sun, you receive far more radiative energy than is emitted by infrared or microwave spectrum. Any airplane pilot receives vastly more high energy radiation than anyone near a 5G cell tower.
Visible light from the sun will damage your eyes if you stare into it. Therefore, the government imposes a SAR (specific absorption rate) that prevents the use of visible light and contiguous frequencies that affect your eyes.
These requirements affect many industries beyond cell phones. SAR means that most LIDAR (light detecting and ranging systems) for vision in self-driving cars have to operate at low power. This both limits their reach and expands the number of transceivers needed to 64 or 128 on each car.
Austin Russell of Luminar Corporation (one of my investments through the 1517 Fund of Peter Thiel) has achieved a breakthrough by moving up spectrum to the same 1550 nanometer wavelengths that David Medved used in fiber optics.
These wavelengths do not affect the eyes. But they give more powerful and effective vision systems for self-driving. Luminar’s technology is now being tested by much of the automotive industry.
Rather than depending on maps, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence to drive the car from afar, Russell’s technology enables the car to see objects hundreds of yards in front of the vehicle. Granting the self-driving apparatus as long as seven to 10 seconds to apprehend and interpret the scene, Luminar promises sharply to improve the safety and effectiveness of self-driving vehicles.
Self-driving vehicles may ultimately prove to be a use of spectrum as significant as 5G. As China shows, without a $150 billion auction tax, people can innovate more readily in the use of spectrum.
Rather than a chimerical campaign against Huawei for taking the lead in 5G, perhaps the US should stop taxing and stultifying its telecom companies.
Editor, Gilder’s Daily Prophecy