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Fresh design takes driven by wireless spectrum allocation

Posted: 14 Nov 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:spectrum allocation? PCAST? LTE? Wi-Fi? AT&T?

According to an industry expert, because of the low-hanging fruit in spectrum allocation has all been picked up, a new era of innovative engineering and spectrum-sharing strategies in wireless is being driven by consumer demand and the coming spectrum crunch.

"The easy stuff {in spectrum] has been cleared. Now it gets hard," said Mark Gorenberg, a managing director at Hummer Winblad venture capital and a member of the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST).

The council's report, issued in July of this year, recommended a variety of steps in the coming years to move spectrum from "scarcity to abundance." Over the years, the government has freed unused or underused federal spectrum for commercial uses, and while more spectrum has been examined with this in mind, the time and cost to clear the frequencies is now too onerous.

"A more efficient and effective use of spectrum"
Now, government and industry are focusing on bandwidth sharing.

"People assume that to do that, you need complicated and new technologies, and that's not what the PCAST report said," Gorenberg said, speaking Wednesday (Nov. 7) during an appearance at Open Mobile Media Summit here. The PCAST spectrum report said use the evolution of white-space technology, geolocation databases and small cell technology, can spawn a more efficient and effective use of spectrum, he added.

"You could really make tremendous headway towards sharing," he said.

He noted that the beginnings of spectrum allocationsparked in part by the sinking of the Titanic and the communications challenges around thatwere marked by noisy technology that needed to be carefully isolated. He used the metaphor of a single road dedicated to single cars, instead of a broad highway with many cars.

"We said, the technology of these devices has advanced so much today that we can look at options," he said. A spectrum access system would imitate this and be managed with something like an air-traffic control system."

Consumer demand is creating the need, Gorenberg said, adding, "I do believe there is a spectrum crunch. It's due to this wonderful situation where demand is growing off the hook because...we're becoming a mobile-first society."

This is forcing technologists to think more holistically about bandwidth and how to allocate services.

"You're seeing the LTE camp [emerging] but by the way you're seeing tremendous offloading onto Wi-Fi, which is what's keeping up" with demand at the moment, he said.

Gorenberg said a combination of macro cells and micro cells will also contribute to meeting demand. He referenced�this week's announcement that AT&T plans to spend $8 billion to update its 4G LTE wireless network.

The deal "included 10,000 macro cells and 40,000 small cells," Gorenberg said.

Two-pronged approach
"We'll see HetNets, carrier-driven LTE-based macro and small cells all working together," Gorenberg said.

And you're going to see the idea of more open sharing, like the spectrum access system, he added.

He noted that it's not just a challenge in the United States: The European Union is examining the notion of sharing not only federal bands but commercials bands.

The Federal Communications Commission has paved the way for voluntary incentive auctions in 2014, in which broadcasters could choose to sell their spectrum. The incentive auctions are intended to free 300MHz of spectrum by 2015 and 500MHz by 2020.

- Brian Fuller
??EE Times

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