Global approaches to spectrum management

The Dynamic Spectrum Alliance’s Global Summit regularly brings together policy-makers, regulators, academia and private sector leaders in spectrum management to discuss and debate spectrum sharing methods and models, from exclusive use licensing to unlicensed allocations. In an exclusive for SatellitePro ME, DSA President Martha Suarez shares how regulators in different parts of the world, including the Middle East, are attempting more efficient utilisation of spectrum.

Policies and regulations are factors at the heart of effective spectrum sharing. It is governments and regulators who are able to implement laws and rules on spectrum sharing, which allow for the opening of bands, sharing of spectrum and subsequent access and innovation which follows. Governments and regulators globally have been taking steps to effectively share the spectrum through laws and regulations.

Spectrum is oxygen for the wireless world

In 2021, the Commissioner of the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT) in Mexico, Javier Juarez Mojica, highlighted the importance of connectivity for Mexico throughout the Covid-19 pandemic: “Spectrum is not a natural resource. Unlike oil and water, we need to create technology to take advantage of electromagnetic waves. Spectrum is like oxygen for the wireless world.”

Mexico is allowing efficient use of spectrum through methods such as spectrum leasing, spectrum sharing for public use licences, and secondary use. In June, a public consultation was begun regarding the 6GHz band. The spectrum unit is proposing to use 1,200MHz as unlicensed spectrum for Low Power Indoor (LPI) and Very Low Power (VLP) indoor and outdoor. IFT has shared its views with the Ministry of Finance, with the intention of reducing the fees spectrum users must pay in order to work towards more affordable services for end users.

“Connectivity is one of the main tools to create a better world and for that, spectrum is of paramount importance,” said Juarez.

Spectrum is a finite resource, requiring prudent management.

South Africa has been involved in studies regarding the concept of spectrum sharing, recognising the need to innovate the existing static spectrum management paradigms towards innovative spectrum management. Peter Zimri and Yolisa Kedama of the ICASA have spoken on the vitality of connectivity throughout the pandemic, and the value of prudent management of spectrum as a finite source.

Priorities for South Africa include the auctioning of multiple IMT spectrum bands: 700, 800, 2,600 and 3,500MHz. It also temporarily released spectrum in these bands, in order to relieve some of the pressure caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The TVWS regulatory framework has been completed, with regulations coming into force in April 2021. Hopefully, 2022 will be the year to consider licence-exempt access to the 6GHz band that will enable technologies like Wi-Fi 6E and conditions for massive adoption of augmented and virtual reality applications in the country.

Hopefully, 2022 will be the year to consider licence-exempt access to the 6GHz band that will enable technologies like Wi-Fi 6E” – Martha Suarez, President, Dynamic Spectrum Alliance

Reaching remote communities

Since 2018, Canada has been gradually releasing priority one spectrum bands, including 3,500MHz, 3,800MHz, 37- 40GHz, 26GHz, 28GHz and 6GHz. ISED made the decision to enable unlicensed access to the 6GHz band, according to Shalini Periyalwar, Expert Director at the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development in Canada.

ISED aligned with the US decision to open the entire 6GHz band for unlicensed access, thanks to the immediate socio-economic benefits, improving the economy and allowing innovative use cases to emerge. In fact, having opened an extra 100MHz of standard power use in comparison to the US, Canada has assigned by far the largest amount of spectrum for use with a spectrum sharing database.

Furthermore, modifications to the plans for TVWS have been made, to support broadband services and rural and remote communities in Canada. During May 2021, ISED released the technical and policy framework decision for the 3,650-4,200MHz band, as well as changes to frequency allocation of the 3,500-3,650MHz band. Further consultations are being made on releasing mmWave spectrum to support 5G, and ISED is reviewing its processes and technologies in order to stay agile and prepared for the next generation of spectrum management.

Taking advantage of economies of scale

SUTEL of Costa Rica recognises the necessity of unlicensed spectrum for applications such as IoT devices, with mixed allocation in the 900MHz band as well as the 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz bands available for wireless access points and routers. The entire 6GHz band is open for unlicensed access in the country, which is important for Costa Rica’s 200 service providers, half of which operate on unlicensed spectrum.

“Small countries like ours have to take advantage of the economies of scale,” says Glen Fallas, General Director, Quality of Service and Spectrum Department at SUTEL. “It is very important we have as much spectrum as we can to deploy new use cases.”

Unused spectrum

In February 2021, Brazil was congratulated on its decision to open the entire 6GHz band for unlicensed access. Later in September, it took the spectrum management plan one step further by approving the use of TVWS. A flexible way to make efficient use of spectrum while protecting existing and incumbent users from interference, this decision was a significant step towards addressing capacity demands in unserved or underserved regions. All those actions have been combined with a successful 5G auction, demonstrating the importance of addressing different technologies to enhance broadband access and providing access to the resource to different market stakeholders, creating a larger ecosystem.

Adopting a collaborative approach

“For three years, Europe has been in discussions about 6GHz harmonisation,” explains Pavel Sistek, Head of Policy and Strategy at the Czech Telecommunication Office. In November 2020, the lower part of the band was approved for LPI use and VLP outdoor and indoor use in the Czech Republic, with the upper part of the band under review. The Commission Implementing Decision – C(2021)4240 on the harmonised use of the frequency band 5945-6425 MHz for Wireless Access Systems including Radio Local was published in June 2021.

Furthermore, the ECC recently adopted a new work item to study possible technical conditions under which wireless access systems including radio local area networks (WAS/RLAN) could operate and coexist with existing services in the 6,425-7,125MHz band, recognising that the work in preparation for WRC-23 agenda item 1.2 will run independently from the work conducted under this work item. National decisions on licence-exempt usage address only limited, local interests, with European harmonisation necessary to facilitate market opportunities.

In November, the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance joined technology and allied groups in a letter to the EU, warning that failure to open the whole band would leave it trailing behind other prominent economies. Based on the new EU telecommunication regulatory framework and new needs and trends, the EU is going to adopt a new Radio Spectrum Policy Programme this year.

A dynamic future for the Middle East

The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) National Spectrum Strategy for Saudi Arabia aims to optimise spectrum usage efficiently and effectively by different industry sectors and use cases in the country. Its multi-year strategic strategy and outlook will govern spectrum policy until 2025 and is a comprehensive plan to unlock the potential of spectrum for both established and emerging technologies. It has three core principles: transparency, predictability and adoption of an evidence-based data-driven spectrum policy. CITC has allocated and improved access to more than 23GHz of newly available spectrum for a wide range of uses in the Kingdom. As the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance plans to meet and deliberate with the Arabic Spectrum Management Group this year, it hopes that other Middle East countries and regulators will follow Saudi Arabia’s example in opening the full 6GHz band for licence-exempt use.