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The advantages and disadvantages of shared spectrum

25 июня 2012

“Speaking at the 7th Annual European Spectrum Management Conference earlier this week, Italian economist Antonio Nicita stated that spectrum could be subject to the ‘tragedy of the commons and anti-commons’. 

This refers to the fact that regulators must balance the advantages and disadvantages of both fully shared spectrum such as Wi-Fi, and exclusive access spectrum such as that used by mobile network operators for delivering high-quality mobile broadband services.

The tragedy of the commons is very evident to many users of Wi-Fi. A huge number of devices compete in the 2.4GHz range. More and more smart devices are taking advantage of this spectrum, causing interference.

On the other hand, access to a lot of spectrum is so exclusive that it is underused. These bandwidths cannot be repurposed for more efficient use because it is licensed to particular users for many future years. This is the ‘tragedy of the anti-commons’.

Spectrum management needs a new paradigm that can prevent such future ‘tragedies’ – and shared spectrum access has been suggested as a solution. 

It is difficult to forecast when spectrum sharing in certain bands will be appropriate. Indeed, some bands could accommodate spectrum sharing immediately (some countries have implemented secondary use in UHF TV ‘white space’ or are considering the possibility).

However, incumbent users will continue to value their exclusivity in some bands. This means that regulators will be managing expected future demand for spectrum by competing users in a present–day world where spectrum licences are still issued out granting exclusivity rights ranging in the order of decades.

Spectrum sharing is a crucial tool in easing these challenges. Regulators are realising that they must take a long-term view, and that reforms to the regulatory framework can facilitate new forms of spectrum access, which reflect the reality of competing technologies and growing demand for spectrum access.

Long-term planning always carries a significant risk of errors and misjudgement. This is particularly true in the management of the radio-frequency spectrum because the pace of change in technology and requirements can be rapid.

Introducing a platform or framework for shared spectrum use introduces some flexibility into the planning process but regulators will have to carefully assess the array of possible sharing options, in order to establish which solutions are, and will be, the most acceptable to industry stakeholders.

Our recent report, Dynamic spectrum access: the drivers and barriers, examines the incentives for introducing shared access regimens, and the many technical, regulatory and commercial obstacles to doing so.”


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