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August 23, 2012

Spectrum Sharing will be Inevitable in the Future

By Ashok Bindra, TMCnet Contributor

An advisory report released by tactical competitive intelligence gathering firm Current Analysis (News - Alert) concludes that spectrum sharing will be an inevitable part of the U.S. government’s spectrum policy going forward.

This in turn requires mobile operators, infrastructure suppliers and device makers to invest in the technologies and develop new business models to make spectrum sharing a reality.

In this complimentary report, analysts Lynnette Luna and Peter Jarich (News - Alert) lend their perspective and recommended actions.

Lately, the lack of spectrum for mobile broadband services and the continued forecast for a spectrum shortage crisis has been a major operator grievance. Taking this into consideration, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) took on the topic of spectrum sharing, suggesting that federal and commercial users look for ways to share federally owned spectrum.

According to PCAST, at least 1,000 MHz of spectrum should be identified for sharing, and a hierarchy of sharing must be approved. Under this scheme, federal users have highest priority, followed by exclusive commercial systems (such as LTE systems) and lastly generalized open access.

“The FCC (News - Alert) has already granted T-Mobile an experimental license to test sharing in the 1,755-1,780 MHz band currently in use by the federal government,” commented Jerry Caron, SVP Analysis at Current Analysis. “The federal government is moving quickly, and operators and suppliers need to be prepared to capitalize.”

Current Analysis research shows that spectrum sharing isn’t just a U.S. consideration. In fact, last year U.K. telecom regulator Ofcom was the first to propose the idea of auctioning of spectrum for small cells on a shared-spectrum basis, and other countries are studying spectrum sharing as a way to ease demand for mobile broadband spectrum.

Meanwhile, database management of spectrum, the ability to move wireless signals from one frequency to another to avoid bands used by other signals, is proving itself out in the white space market. Current Analysis research shows that the companies acting as white space database coordinators openly admit that they see broader applications of their work, applications which extend to sharing spectrum in other bands.

In reality, business models surrounding spectrum sharing are still unknown. Consequently, device vendors will have to understand how to support spectrum sharing and the various spectrum bands that might come with it, while operators need to determine what services would best fit in a shared-spectrum environment.

Reports indicate that operators are accustomed to exclusively owning spectrum, and the industry is already seeing some key opposition to that idea. AT&T (News - Alert), for example, while not totally dismissing spectrum sharing, recently declared that regulators cannot ignore what it calls a proven model around exclusive licensing when it comes to investment, innovation and jobs.

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Edited by Braden Becker
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