Paul Baran, an engineer who helped create the technical underpinnings for the Arpanet (the precursor to today’s Internet), died Saturday in Palo Alto, California. While everyone else celebrates his early contributions to packet networking, I will remember him for his open spectrum advocacy.
I never had the privilege of hearing Paul Baran speak live, but as I became interested in wireless spectrum, one of the earliest references I encountered was this transcript of Paul Baran's Keynote Address at the 8th Annual Conference on Next Generation Networks Washington, DC, November 9, 1994.
His title says it all:
Visions of the 21st Century Communications: Is the Shortage of Radio Spectrum for Broadband Networks of the Future a Self Made Problem?
And here's an excerpt:
The key point at issue that we will question is the widespread belief that we don't have enough radio spectrum to go around. This is a common, fundamental belief. Since we live in a world of scarcity or natural resources it is almost automatic that we believe that there is a shortage of frequencies. This particular resource is somewhat different. This morning, let's start by reviewing this presumption of a permanent shortage. Let's consider how, with an application of already known technology, we could create even a surplus of frequencies. What may be going on is an inadvertent shortage created by a regulatory structure which has yet to appreciate the potential capabilities of the new digital signal processing technology as applied to communications.
Paul Baran is hardly the originator of open spectrum ideas, but the complete transcript shows he once again led the industry.