Spectrum sharing, either through specific regulation or the use of new technologiescould be a new tool used by regulatory agencies to promote initiatives to close the digital gap or accelerate the digitalization of certain industries, the panelists agreed during the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA) Global Forum.
Mario Maniewicz, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau, He highlighted the importance of the standards defined by the organization that allow the use of spectrum sharing techniques between different services, and that they are an option to take advantage of their potential “to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the use of the spectrum.”
“Why do we have to share spectrum? We have to share spectrum because it is a scarce resource. If we could allocate a band for each service, we wouldn’t have to share anything. That is to say, each one would have their own gang, their own road to travel on. But when we have to share a road for several vehicles, then we have to establish certain rules so that they can travel on the road without interfering,” he added.
During his presentation, Maniewicz cited the cases of UK where a local license is offered to access spectrum for certain industries or applications in spaces that have not been used by the main national providers; Meanwhile in France explores the use of blockchain for spectrum sharing; while they exist other cases where they are sought take advantage of “white spaces” in the TV frequency bands.
Also, he highlighted the recent case of the 6 GHz band, where through the use of management systems such as the Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) is allowed to operate WiFi 6E networks without interfering with incumbent services from the band. “The point is to allow as many services as possible to operate, but make sure they don’t interfere with others that are out there,” he added.
In this regard, Artur Coimbra, commissioner of the National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) of Brazil, highlighted the benefits of having released the 1,200 MHz of the 6 GHz band for use in Wi-Fi networks. Although its use is limited to indoor or low-power applications, he noted that the agency has begun to evaluate expanding the use of this spectrum to outdoor or higher-power applications.
However, he acknowledged that such an initiative “would be limited by standards and equipment availability,” although he insisted that for “Brazil it is very important that this technology can be used outdoors, which would allow many small cells to offer the population direct access to the Internet”.
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Coimbra also shared the challenges and experiences in Brazil for the best use of the spectrum in closing the digital divide, such as recovering bands that were auctioned 20 years ago and have not been used in rural areas; the use of 100 MHz between the 3,700 MHz to 3,800 MHz segment for private networks; or the use of white spaces in VHF and UHF networks, which has not been able to advance due to lack of equipment.
Similarly, Coimbra remembered when in 2012 the 2.5 GHz band to which added 450 MHz segment that would be used for Internet services in rural areas. This plan failed, since 10 years later, this band was never used due to lack of equipment.. It has begun to analyze re-allocating it if interest is observed in the market.
Anatel has also explored the possibility of granting secondary or local licenses in bands that offer good coverage, such as 700 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz, and that are not being used by large operators. However, Coimbra acknowledged that the legal framework has not been adequate to attract new players.
the official highlighted the result of the last 5G spectrum auction, in which a reduction in the price of the spectrum was chosen in exchange for investment commitments in rural areas by the operators. Nevertheless, Coimbra indicated that there is still a challenge to bring the Internet to about 20 million people who live in scattered rural areaswhere the use of new technologies could be exploited.
Although the release of more spectrum would allow expanding coverage and covering supply, both panelists agreed that other factors on the demand side still need to be addressed, such as the affordability of services, the availability of devices or the development of digital skills.
“Then, having more spectrum available, yes, of course that is a key element, but also all these other aspects must be taken into account by regulators and legislators around the worldManiewicz concluded.