New wireless handhelds? Not so fast!

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New handhelds lose FCC green light

By Ian Fried
Special to ZDNet News
August 29, 2001 12:09 PM PT

The Federal Communications Commission, which earlier this week approved new wireless handhelds from Palm and Handspring, has now set aside its ruling.
As first reported by CNET News.com, Palm received approval Monday for the i705, a handheld with built-in Wireless Data access, and Handspring was granted approval Tuesday for two Palm operating system-based handhelds that combine cell phone and organizer functions.

The approvals are now listed as pending applications, according to Richard Fabina, chief of the equipment authorization branch at the FCC’s laboratories in Columbia, Md. The change in status was made Wednesday, he said.

Fabina said he could not comment on the specific cases. But he said that, in general, grants can be set aside if either the FCC or the company notices an error or if there is information missing from the file. FCC approval, known as a grant of equipment authorization, is required of any wireless device that contains a transmitter, from wireless keyboards to cell phones to remote-control cars.

While the reason for the move is unclear, the effect is that information that was made public about the devices is now no longer available. Once an application for equipment authorization is approved, the information is public, Fabina said. But a pending application is not public.

The Handspring and Palm applications, like most, contained photos and detailed information on the new devices.

For example, the Handspring application notes that the devices, the Treo k180 and the Treo g180, feature a 33MHz Dragonball processor, 16MB of memory and phone functions similar to Handspring’s VisorPhone. Both models have the same internal components, but the k180 features a tiny keyboard while the g180 uses Palm’s Graffiti handwriting recognition.

Palm’s application for the i705, meanwhile, notes that device will be able to access corporate e-mail and comes with a built-in antenna, a universal connector for add-ons and syncing, along with a postage-stamp-size Secure Digital expansion slot.

Fabina said it was “fairly uncommon” for grants to be set aside but said he could not comment on the fact that two grants were set aside so close together and so shortly after press reports about the products.

It would be possible for any company that has received a grant to say there is an error and get the grant set aside, he said. Assuming it was a minor error, a new authorization could be made within a couple of days. However, Fabina said he could not say whether it was the handheld makers or the FCC that noticed a problem with the Palm and Handspring grants.

A Palm representative declined to comment on the FCC action. A Handspring representative was not immediately available to comment.

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