OECD proposes sharing of licensed radio spectrum

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OECD proposes sharing of licensed radio spectrum

Unlicensed airwaves needed to meet demand.

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) is calling for licensed radio-frequency spectrum to be shared, in order to meet increasing demand from users and to alleviate network congestion.

A report published by the OECD notes that an increasing amount of spectrum will be needed to accommodate the growth in wireless devices, which in turn supports a multi-billion dollar supply chain of infrastructure, equipment, applications and content provision.

Unlicensed spectrum such as 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands used for wi-fi have been behind the most succesful technologies, the OECD said, and provides billions of dollars of value for consumers by enhancing their fixed broadband and by offloading cellular networks.

Therefore, policy makers and regulators should strive to make such unlicensed spectrum available to meet growing demand in the future.

One approach suggested by the OECD is licensed share access (LSA), which would allow a limited number of users to utilise spectrum held by a licensee or a government agency, provided the latter are not themselves using it and are protected from harmful interference.

The LSA bands under consideration include the 2.3GHz in European Union and 3.5GHz in the United States, the OECD said.

Already, the EU radio spectrum policy group has indicated its support for LSA, along with its US counterpart, the Federal Communications Commission, which proposed sharing of the 3.5GHz band. 

To facilitate sharing and use of multiple unlicensed bands, new technologies such as cognitive radio - which utilises beacons, geolocation databases and sensing to establish communications when there are channels available - can be used, along with software defined radios for greater control.

Another idea under consideration includes relaxing current rules for small-cell installations, allowing customers to use, for instance, femtocells in heavily populated areas. Studies from Japan show that no apparent disruption of services has occured since a more light-handed regime was adopted in 2008.

Using television white space spectrum where the frequencies are not used all the time or in all locations is also under consideration for sharing, and trials have taken place in Korea, the US and the UK, the OECD said.

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