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Moves to allow dynamic access to new US spectrum bands

For several years now, work has been ongoing to allow shared access to reclaimed frequency bands. These bands were known as ‘white space spectrum’, as they were allocated to analogue broadcasting services but not actually used, acting as guard bands between channels. With the switch to digital, this spectrum became available for re-use.

But pilot tests showed that confining this technology to white space spectrum was too restrictive, as the principles of dynamic access could be used in much wider scenarios.

The Dynamic Spectrum Alliance yesterday submitted its first filing to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in support of its efforts to increase dynamic access to unused radio frequencies in the 600 MHz, 3.5 GHz, and 5 GHz bands. This, it says, will lead to more wireless bandwidth and reduced costs for consumers – as consumer demand for wireless services continues to grow unabated.

The cross-industry Alliance now has nearly 40 members and works to engage with regulators and government officials across the world to promote the adoption of legal and regulatory frameworks that facilitate dynamic access to radio spectrum.

“A key function of the Alliance is to engage with governments and regulators around the world on how to use new dynamic spectrum sharing technologies to address key policy challenges,” said Paul Garnett, Dynamic Spectrum Alliance Chairman and Director of Technology Policy at Microsoft. “We hope that the FCC will move quickly over the next few months, adopt and implement new regulations allowing for dynamic access to spectrum in the 600 MHz, 3.5 GHz, and 5 GHz bands.”

The Alliance recommends that the FCC should enable robust access to licensed and unlicensed spectrum above and below 1 GHz, as licensed and unlicensed uses provide distinct opportunities and benefits that complement each other. It wants to ensure that sufficient usable unlicensed spectrum remains available in the 600 MHz bands as a result of the digital TV transition and that too much doesn’t go to cellular operators as exclusive-use licensed access.

It also argues that to ensure the most effective deployment of new opportunistic and innovative technologies in the 3.5 GHz band, the Commission should reserve sufficient nationwide spectrum for unlicensed ‘General Authorized Access’.

The Alliance also calls for the FCC should expand unlicensed access in the 5 GHz bands. To do this, it needs to consider sharing techniques, including geolocation database technologies – which could be integrated with sensors and beacons – to allow more efficient use of the band, and facilitate enforcement of sharing rules.

Finally, the Alliance wants the FCC to immediately endorse the “use it or share it” principles for licensed spectrum – giving protection to incumbent licensees in these new bands while at the same time enabling large amounts of underutilised spectrum for unlicensed access.

“We applaud the FCC’s groundbreaking efforts and are eager to work with the Commission to ensure the most efficient and effective use of spectrum across a range of complementary frequencies and regulatory models,” said Garnett. “We ultimately believe that dynamic spectrum access technologies will bring major, lasting benefits to consumers.”

The Dynamic Spectrum Alliance holds its first Global Summit in Ghana in May.

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