Column: Making scarce spectrum deliver more
Pradip Baijal & Satya N Gupta
We know that as long as current management practices continue, radio spectrum will remain a scarce resource. Regulators and governments the world over are struggling to counter the crunch for decades to meet the ever-increasing demand from the operators, who are trying to meet the ever-increasing aspiration for high bandwidth consuming applications on their mobiles.
In reality, radio spectrum is not really scarce. Studies and reports to the governments by expert bodies in the US, the UK and the European Union have shown that the finite spectrum is currently highly mismanaged and grossly underutilised. To increase the information-carrying capacity of a channel, its bandwidth increase is the only solution. This can be achieved by avoiding fragmentation of spectrum, and techniques are now available to avoid fragmentation, even in a multi-operator multi-usage environment.
As an analogy, spectrum can be equated to real estate, which may be finite, but through multi-storied sky scrapers, the capacity of a build-up area on the same land can really be enormous. Real estate is also constrained by regulation (floor space index) and the technology and construction material used.
As far as options to enhance capacity are concerned, a niche role is required to be played by each key stakeholder—government, regulators, operators and network providers. The option available with the operators is to make use of frequency re-use techniques as a trade-off between the spectrum required and the number of towers
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