I attended a seminar on the future of spectrum this morning. I thought there were a few interesting points, with international elements, that would be worth sharing:

  1. As consumers use more and more data on their mobile devices lack of capacity is increasingly becoming an issue, even with the benefits of 4G.
  2. Spectrum will therefore become, if anything, even more important because using more spectrum increases capacity on a mobile network.
  3. The other way to improve capacity is to build a more dense network – ie have more base stations and antennae. This is expensive, but then so is more spectrum!
  4. Wifi is also important as a way of moving traffic from mobile to fixed networks.
  5. The UK will, by 2020, have made more spectrum available for mobile use than just about any other country.
  6. Newer technologies may facilitate dynamic sharing of spectrum between operators’ networks according to demand – though we are quite a few years away from being able to do this in real time.
  7. It seems likely that quite a lot more spectrum will be made available worldwide in the medium term (c 5 years) but this will all be very high frequency (24 GHz+) – this means low propagation, so *much* more dense networks will be needed – antennae will need to be located in cities every 100m or so!
  8. This means interference between networks will become more of a problem.
  9. Site sharing (placing antennae from two networks on the same site) can help with interference problems because each can be planned knowing about the other.

I conclude from all this that (though these weren’t specifically mentioned in the seminar) : (i) When real-time dynamic sharing is possible this will facilitate whole new business models in the telecoms sector – eg a wholesale-only spectrum owner could automatically auction spectrum to the highest bidder in each area continuously, leading to much more efficient use; and (ii) “passive” (or site) sharing will become even more important in future.