Monday, July 25, 2011

Viable Alternatives to Current Methods by Promoting the Secondary Spectrum Market

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) recently issued a letter strongly opposing aspects of a draft bill entitled “Spectrum Innovation Act of 2011.” The open letter to the government cites that “aspects of the draft would threaten the continued development of affordable fixed broadband services to Americans living in rural, unserved and underserved areas of the country.” The WISPA organization has a point and raises some very significant issues, but we should not ignore the spectrum policy and innovations that the industry has been building upon over the past decade, specifically the secondary spectrum market.

Spectrum Bridge firmly believes that there are viable alternatives to current spectrum allocation methods if industry continues to promote secondary markets. In an earlier blog post, Spectrum Bridge mentioned that the secondary spectrum market was created by the FCC to enable “spectrum to flow more freely among users and uses in response to economic demand.” The demand for spectrum continues to increase on a daily basis, but there are alternatives to utilizing unused bandwidth in the U.S. as opposed to drafting and passing bills dedicated to current Spectrum Auction processes. The auction process is, realistically, only available to a small subset of spectrum users and only executed by the FCC when large swathes of spectrum are available. So in addition to limiting bidders much spectrum sits in inventory in the hope that there will eventually be enough to justify an auction. Secondary markets are the only option for many spectrum users and they can also be an outlet for the FCC to permit use of spectrum sitting idle in inventory.

Thanks to the FCC efforts and continued innovation in technology, industry is now able to stand on its own to help allocate unused frequencies on an as needed basis. Major industry players are beginning to take a larger role in how spectrum is allocated and managed. For example, Qualcomm and Nokia have recently proposed the concept of Authorized Shared Access which allows spectrum sharing via cognitive network technologies which are aimed at benefiting consumers and helping to sustain economic growth.

With the whole notion of viable alternatives to current methods, the government will not necessarily need to be in the involved, industry is more than capable of managing spectrum and allocating it to meet demand. Spectrum management solutions and secondary markets will see an increase in value over time as the ever increasing spectrum scarcity continues to burden policy makers in the near term. The increasing role of industry giants only emphasizes the desire for alternatives to current methods such as shared access and secondary markets.

- Peter Stanforth, CTO