Column: Making scarce spectrum deliver more

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SummaryWe know that as long as current management practices continue, radio spectrum will remain a scarce resource.

efficiency of radio spectrum is of paramount importance as, being the custodian of spectrum, they are the first and most significant stakeholders in this value chain. To meet the objective, they need to innovate in management of spectrum and learn from the various advancements in this field. Many reports on 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 Defence forces are still using spectrum through outdated technologies and also in a fraction of the geography in which they have been allocated spectrum.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

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