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Complimentary Advisory Report

Spectrum Sharing: Are Databases
and Small Cells the Future of Spectrum Licensing?

| Aug 12, 2012 | Mobile Ecosystem
| Analysts: Lynnette Luna, Senior Analyst, Mobile Ecosystem
      and Peter Jarich, VP, Consumer and Infrastructure

The U.S. spectrum policy was born out of the tragic sinking of the Titanic 100 years ago. Concerned about the role that radio interference might have played in the effort by some to notify the Titanic of dangerous icebergs in the area, the U.S. government adopted the Radio Act of 1912, giving it the power to license wireless spectrum in the U.S. Despite the rapid evolution of wireless technology, that spectrum policy – which took into account the need for heavy noise mitigation – remains in effect today.

The Obama Administration and the FCC, however, have recognized that the current spectrum policy has led to an artificial scarcity and inefficient use of U.S. airwaves. Back in June 2010, President Obama issued a presidential memorandum requiring 500 MHz of spectrum to be made available for commercial use within 10 years, kicking off a plan to enable more efficient use of spectrum – centered on enabling disparate users of wireless services to share spectrum.

In July 2012, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), an advisory group appointed by the president, issued its recommendations for a new spectrum policy going forward. It concluded that the traditional practice of clearing government-held spectrum of federal users and auctioning it for commercial use is not sustainable. PCAST, instead, recommends that President Obama issue a new memorandum that states it is the policy of the U.S. government to share underutilized spectrum and require NTIA to identify 1,000 MHz of federal spectrum in which to implement shared-use spectrum pilot projects. These key recommendations have the blessing of the FCC, NTIA, and the Department of Defense. Central to kicking off this government spectrum-sharing policy will be the use of database-driven spectrum allocation and small cells.

In this report (the second installment; see White Space Technology: The Gateway to Spectrum Management, July 13, 2012), we focus on the concept of spectrum sharing: what it means, what plans the FCC and NTIA have for it, how equipment is evolving to enable it, and how business models must evolve to accommodate it.

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