Apple Computer Inc. on Monday asked the Federal Communications Commission to set aside a small portion of the radio frequency spectrum to allow personal computers to communicate over radio waves instead of over telephone lines.
The petition seeks the spectrum allocation on behalf of all computer manufacturers that might someday participate in the emerging field of so-called wireless computing, a technology many experts consider to be key to the next generation of personal computers.
Although several wireless PC communication systems have been introduced recently, the Apple proposal is unique in its request that the FCC set aside a specific piece of the crowded radio frequency spectrum for all wireless portable computers. The plan, in essence, asks that computer makers be given the same consideration that makers of garage door openers, portable telephones and citizens band radios enjoy.
Under Apple's proposal, the FCC would create a new class of data communications, called data personal communications services, that would operate exclusively on 40 megahertz of bandwidth between 1850 and 1990 megahertz to transmit data at high speeds over short distances of up to about 150 feet.
Apple officials said they filed the petition now to ensure that advanced technology computers are treated the same as the new personal telephones when the FCC later this year begins considering the allocation of newly available portions of the radio frequency spectrum for emerging communication technologies.
"This is a place holder, a move to ensure that there is a voice before the FCC on behalf of portable computers," said Richard Shaffer, the editor of a technology newsletter in New York.
"We want to create an honest-to-goodness legitimate computer-network bandwidth," said William Stevens, manager of Apple's wireless communication research.
Noting that the petition had just been filed, the FCC declined comment.
Several high-technology manufacturers, including Motorola and NCR Corp., offer wireless communication systems for personal computer users. However, no two are alike, and many still depend on communication devices wired in place. Others allow only low-speed data transmission.
Under the Apple plan, personal computer users would be able to communicate with other users within a building or work site without wired networks and at high speeds. Students and teachers would no longer be confined to a rigid classroom setup, and workers would be freed from the wired networks and could have access to their desktop files without sitting at their desks.
Further, computer manufacturers pushing this type of technology have argued that it is considerably less expensive than installing telephone lines and other sophisticated networks.