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:
- 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.
- Spectrum will therefore become, if anything, even more important because using more spectrum increases capacity on a mobile network.
- 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!
- Wifi is also important as a way of moving traffic from mobile to fixed networks.
- The UK will, by 2020, have made more spectrum available for mobile use than just about any other country.
- 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.
- 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!
- This means interference between networks will become more of a problem.
- 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.