Earlier this month, the U.K. took a small but significant step towards a future in which spectrum is shared rather than reserved for a particular use. The U.K.’s Department for Culture, Media, and Sport (“DCMS”) released its 2014 Spectrum Strategy, which committed to “a gradual move” from exclusive to shared use of spectrum, in line with the European Commission’s promotion of spectrum sharing. As unencumbered airwaves become a thing of the past, “sharing will be crucial,” it said. “Technical and regulatory innovations to enable such sharing must be prioritized.”
DCMS anticipates that the benefits of such a shift will be enormous. In particular, DCMS predicts that such an approach can help double spectrum’s annual contribution to the U.K. economy by 2025. It also states that such new and innovative forms of spectrum use will be necessary to keep up with developments such as 5G, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.
For starters, DCMS recommends making additional portions of government-owned spectrum available for public use. Among other things, DCMS states that that the creation of a central public sector spectrum database should help generate sharing opportunities, and that new technologies such as geolocation databases and white space devices could add to these opportunities. It also mentions that the Ministry of Defense is in the process of preparing additional bands for sharing and has already agreed to share the 2025-2070 MHz band with wireless cameras on a more formal basis. Additionally, DCMS notes that it plans to apply the same core principles across all frequencies, to modify its regulatory framework to better support geolocation databases, and to meet with experts and publish additional conclusions by July 2015.
Time will tell whether sharing is an effective and practical way of easing (and perhaps overcoming) the current spectrum crunch. The U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (“PCAST”) recently considered the same set of issues, and it recommended a similar approach.