Challenges Associated with Broadband Spectrum Management

by Aeyne Schriber on July 31, 2012 in Internet Access

The increased use of broadband connectivity coupled with the demand for availability has made the role of global broadband spectrum management more important.  Many areas of the world which are underserved in terms of broadband access are planning to expand broadband access through the use of new technologies.  As a result, there are many challenges which must be addressed by the assignors of broadband spectrum which are also key spectrum management officials.

Broadband Spectrum Defined

Before we talk about the challenges associated with broadband spectrum management let’s first define the term broadband spectrum.  The term spectrum when you relate it to radio communications is a specified area where radio frequencies are being used.  In areas where there is very little spectrum it means that the area has a high percentage of radio frequency areas.

In other locations where there is a lot of spectrum such as a remote area, it means that there is very little communications or radio frequencies being used which means there is more spectrum available.  Broadband spectrum refers to areas which are being utilized by broadband frequencies and the space left over is the amount of spectrum that is available.  Remote areas which do not have broadband access offer a lot of spectrum for establishing broadband access.

We first refer to spectrum in terms of radio frequencies since this is the oldest form of communication which is managed by spectrum management officials such as the federal government.

Broadband Spectrum Challenges

If you live in an area where broadband access is limited or you have traveled to different parts of the world that lack broadband access this is due to the many challenges which are faced by regulators in terms of broadband spectrum assignment.  The following information will provide you with an idea and an understanding of some of the challenges which are faced when it comes to broadband spectrum.

  • License Rights:  One of the primary challenges faced by broadband spectrum officials is finding ways to provide license rights that are both flexible and geared toward a wide variety of markets.  Without flexible licensing rights broadband wireless access service providers are hesitant to invest in areas which are underserved with broadband connectivity.
  • Gathering of Spectrum:  Another challenge faced by spectrum management officials is the tendency to collect spectrum as the result of speculation which makes it more difficult to roll out broadband wireless access to underserved areas. Instead, officials must gain an understanding that new advances in technology are actually contributing to the increase in spectrum capabilities which allows broadband access services who have been granted a license to accomplish more with the same resources by creating more uses for new broadband spectrums.  In other words, licensees are able to offer new products by creating trade-offs for bandwidth, power and bit error rates due to connection noise present on the lines.
  • Reviewing Best Practices:  The review of best practices on a global scale which have significantly contributed to the broad development and deployment of broadband wireless access services represents a challenge for spectrum management officials.  This involves careful review of the existing models which represent traditional approaches to rolling out broadband access which may not be the most efficient due to new technologies and markets which demand high speed broadband connectivity.

Existing Regulatory Broadband Spectrum Models

There are several different models which are currently being used by broadband spectrum management officials and many have concluded that the existing models are no longer sufficient enough to deal with the rapidly developing broadband demand and the market.  The issue with the existing models is they deal more with defining usage guidelines without actually defining the underlying goals related to each guideline.  Some of these issues include:

  • Stringent Operating and Service Guidelines:  Under existing broadband spectrum models there are rigid operating and service guidelines which define the spectrum rights of the licensee.  This is the result of strict government control over the use of spectrum which is outdated because it is primarily related to the technology limitations of radio which were developed many years ago and within the last century.  As a result, spectrum management officials must continually go back and review the spectrum as new technologies are released which causes a delay in the roll out of broadband wireless access services.
  • Exclusive Spectrum Use:  With exclusive rights the licensee is provided with the rights to use a specific spectrum over a specified period of time and within a designated geographical area.  This type of model is used to prevent spectrum interference and to protect the holder of the spectrum license.  The problem with this existing model is that it focuses on technicalities instead of spectrum services which encourage new markets.
  • Spectrum Commons:  This is an existing unlicensed model which allows for sharing of block frequencies within a spectrum.  It is open to an unlimited number of users with no priorities assigned to specific individuals or a group of users.  This means there is no protection from interferences which is representative of an open wireless LAN (Local Area Network).  Although this represents an easier entrance into different markets at a lower cost and an easier way for spectrum management officials to assign spectrums to underserved areas, it can also lead to an unstable spectrum environment due to overcrowding and increased interference.

So what is the proposed answer to this dilemma? It is believed that spectrum management officials can begin by offering flexibility to spectrum licensees on the premise that they demonstrate a commitment to creating competition and by requiring licensees to fully utilize the cost of their spectrum rights to prevent broadband spectrum hoarding problems.

In terms of underserved countries and remote areas, broadband spectrums are not as scarce which means that spectrum management guidelines could include spectrum use areas which are not as dense which allows for increased speed and range for broadband wireless access systems and services.

Additionally, a lack of consistency among global spectrum guidelines, especially on the unlicensed spectrums may become a problem due to a lack of consistency with regard to the cost of spectrum access, especially as new technologies are released on the market.

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