FCC Looks to Unclog Radio Spectrum

Growing Number of Wireless Devices Creating 'Traffic' Jam

FCC Chairman Michael Powell opens the anechoic chamber for business.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell opens the anechoic chamber for business. Charles Harrington, FCC hide caption

itoggle caption Charles Harrington, FCC
Inside the FCC's new anechoic chamber.

The anechoic chamber, with its different-sized tiles, is made to absorb any radio waves entering the room from the outside world. Charles Harrington, FCC hide caption

itoggle caption Charles Harrington, FCC

Watch the cars jockeying for position on any busy highway, and you'll get a picture of what radio-wave traffic would look like if you could see those signals. When two cars are in the same place at the same time, you get a wreck. The same is true for radio signals created by the growing number of wireless gadgets, from cell phones and WiFi devices to GPS devices.

The Federal Communications Commission has opened a new facility it hopes will help avoid the equivalent of road rage among users of the radio spectrum. The new anechoic chamber, located at the FCC labs in Columbia, Md., is outfitted with specially absorbent tiles that ensure no radio waves can enter from the outside world. The FCC says that makes the chamber the perfect place to test devices that use parts of the radio spectrum — and develop strategies for reducing interference. NPR's Larry Abramson reports.

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