Spectrum 2.0

Dominic and I had a very interesting meeting with Steve Song and Andrew Rens from the Shuttleworth Foundation this morning about the idea of open / shared frequency spectrum.

You may remember me writing about Lite Licencing.

A few ideas from our meeting which I think should be more widely distributed:

  • There seems to be a wide acceptance of open spectrum allocation models from global bodies like the ITU, Ofcom and the FCC.
  • We need an independent audit of South Africa’s spectrum allocation. Who has what? What is open?
  • Spectrum management should be open and transparent.. it’s a national resource. Think mining rights and databases of who may mine where.
  • We talked about the possible negative effects of using an auction process to hand out frequency.
  • I think everybody likes the Lite Licencing idea, but we may want to implement the idea in a bit more simple, pragmatic and “african” way. Related to this was DFS (dynamic frequency selection), being able to identify base stations and avoiding interference. I like the idea of location aware base stations which query some central database for the frequency ranges they are allowed to use per area.
  • The 600-700Mhz TV “white space” is an interesting one. Wide prorogation, maybe best used for voice services. Let’s hope we get to use it soon after 2011.
  • Use it or lose it. There should be no such thing as a permanent spectrum assignment.
  • We talked about spectrum trading.. could be nice, but there were a number of concerns about this. Think Enron trading electricity.
  • I like the idea of the “spectrum commons”.
  • Is spectrum a scare resource? Some studies show that even in metro areas (UK) only about 14% of available spectrum is used in any given area. Obviously we are not using this resource efficiently enough.
  • We talked about how we can change and improve the state of spectrum policies.. to help our new ECNS licensees, increase competition, improve access and drive down costs. Industry needs to get together, we need some lobbying momentum. Let’s get more people interested. Naturally WAPA and the ISPA have been working on this, but a new focus on open spectrum policies would be nice. Expect to see a workshop on the topic soon.

This seems to be a good time to change the way we think about spectrum allocation. We’ll have a new DoC minister soon and we have ~200 ECNS licensees needing a solution very soon. A good time for ideas like these to have an impact.

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