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802.16 family of standards; these ubiquitous, open standards ensure the interoperability of equipment and have effectively reduced the price point for wireless networking equipment.
Encourage Voluntary Frequency Coordination Efforts
As the radio spectrum is used more intensively, interference mitigation among unlicensed users is an increasingly important issue. The rules provide that unlicensed devices may not cause harmful interference to authorized users and must accept any interference that they receive. Moreover, unlicensed devices operating in a spectrum band do not have any preferred standing. Thus, as more and more devices use a particular unlicensed band in a localized area, interference mitigation will become increasingly important and, correspondingly, more technically complex.
IDEAL FRAMEWORK FOR SPECTRUM ALLOCATION
Owing to the ‘always-on’ nature of broadband service, as compared with operations of other types of unlicensed devices with relatively shorter duty cycles, WISPs are more consistent and often more bandwidth-intensive users of spectrum. Thus, WISPs have even greater incentives to develop practices and procedures to mitigate interference.
Various voluntary private industry efforts are underway globally in which groups of unlicensed wireless service providers have set up databases and procedures to perform frequency coordination. These groups have found that these efforts substantially mitigate potential interference and facilitate quality of service. Authorities should support these private industry efforts if these frequency coordination initiatives encourage all spectrum users to become members. A key benefit of frequency coordination is the ability for more operators to share the same spectrum bands, avoiding the time-consuming, costly and often difficult task of determining the cause or source of any interference. Another principal benefit is enhanced service reliability.
In light of the benefits of frequency coordination groups and, given the continued growth in unlicensed wireless broadband services, more and more service providers will be interested in participating in frequency coordination efforts. To this end, we recently learned that the Licence Exempt Alliance is working to establish a nationwide frequency coordination database, which would serve as a referral in case of any problem.
One critical aspect for success of all of these private industry efforts is that they remain voluntary industry initiatives and regulators refrain from taking an active role in frequency coordination efforts in the unlicensed bands, as the industry members are in the best position to determine the optimal nature and extent of such coordination.
While increased growth of frequency coordination groups will be helpful in enabling more intensive use of the radio spectrum, voluntary industry ‘best practices’ will further facilitate this objective as well. For example, such practices could encourage the use of more spectrally efficient directional antennas and encourage service providers to transmit only when there is data to transmit.
Improving Access to Licensed Spectrum
Regulators must explore innovative ways to improve and streamline the process of allocating and assigning licensed spectrum. Although using licensed spectrum provides many advantages for wireless providers, one
STRATEGY FOR SUCCESS: GOVERNMENT AND REGULATORS
of the disadvantages is the lengthy period of time taken to allocate and assign new spectrum. Shortening the amount of time it takes to get spectrum out of the government’s hands and into the market, where companies can use it to provide services that consumers demand, is critical in the fast-paced and ever-changing world of technology and broadband.
Regulators must continue to explore new ways to reduce the amount of time between allocation and assignment, for example by simultaneously allocating and proposing service rules for spectrum, as recently done by the FCC in the USA in the case of Advanced Wireless Services.
Furthermore, in cases where parties disagree on the appropriate band plan for a new spectrum block, the regulator could consider resolving technical disputes over allocation schemes at auction by using competitive bidding to determine the band plan most highly valued by prospective licensees and then move forward with licensing based on the winning band plan.
The regulators should try to allocate spectrum that is in harmony with international spectrum allocations. The use of a single band for the same service across multiple countries can create economies of scale in the production of wireless end-user equipment. This in turn can lower the cost of broadband-capable devices, thereby increasing the demand for broadband services and making them more accessible to a wider base of consumers. Global harmonization can also facilitate international roaming, which can increase the productivity of workers who use broadband devices when travelling around the world.