Column: Making scarce spectrum deliver more

Feb 16 2013, 02:07 IST
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SummaryWe know that as long as current management practices continue, radio spectrum will remain a scarce resource.

these techniques are available the world over. One case in point is the emergence of packetisation techniques to improve the utilisation of a resource or media. This has been exploited fully by the internet and is now moving to telecom through next generation networks (NGN). Also, each stakeholder has to learn trunking techniques, wherein the same resource is shared among multiple users in a time-domain.

In addition, many regulators and operators have made use of time-slot interchange and packet-switching techniques to improve utilisation many-fold. Examples are internet exchanges, which help in efficient utilisation of precious international connectivity, interconnect-exchanges or telecom-hotels for efficient interconnection among multiple operators and, lately, the power-exchanges to help in the distribution of pooled power to the neediest entity at a given time.

Therefore, there is a life-time opportunity knocking at the doors of spectrum managers to come out of the stigma of gross mismanagement of spectrum, leading to dropped calls and slow net connections, by bringing efficiency not only in the utilisation of spectrum but also in its allocation.

Unfortunately, charity has to begin at home, as the most inefficient usage of radio spectrum is prevalent in the strategic and state entities. Defence forces are still using spectrum through outdated technologies and also in a fraction of the geography in which they have been allocated spectrum. In the same way, state broadcasters are still embracing spectrum-guzzling analogue technologies, though there is a strong movement towards a digital dividend. Also, not many public sector utilities are known to be efficient users of spectrum.

In the developing nations, especially the US and those in Europe, there is a pragmatic political move towards authorised shared access and pooled spectrum, wherein taking cognisance of interference-tolerant technological developments, the government is discussing the possibility of sharing strategic spectrum with the public operators, with a condition of first-right and zero-interference to defence usage. This is likely to work in 95% of the geography where defence forces have exclusive allocations but no operations. For the rest, public users will be allowed to use only if and when the spectrum is idling and without any interference to the original allottee, i.e. the defence forces. This appears to be a good beginning, but not enough.

The innovative, forward-looking approach for efficient spectrum allocation has to take the best of learnings from past, present and some out-of-the-box thinking to make it happen. One solution in this direction can be the establishment

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