Nine Regimes of Radio Spectrum Management: A 4-Step Decision Guide
Wireless services will go through a major expansion in the next decade. The generally accepted mantra is that this will provoke a need for an always more efficient usage of the radio spectrum. Major technological changes are under way, which will have to be combined with savvier management methods. The debate on adequate, future-oriented, spectrum management is currently reaching a turning point. A trend towards flexibility in the form of market mechanisms (auctions), was initiated in New Zealand, then the US in 1993, and expanded in a number of European and Asian countries in the early 2000’. It has been consistently formalised in 2002 by the FCC Spectrum Task Force Report in the US , the Martin Cave Report in the UK . The two reports translated into a comprehensive market-oriented spectrum management framework that has served as an underlying reference to subsequent policy initiatives in Europe since this date.It seems, however, this trend is encountering delays where it is already implemented or favourably considered, and confronting fierce oppositions in the territories it has not conquered yet. It might consequently be useful to sort things out in the light of the exchanged arguments, the available experience, and especially look into how the prospects offered by ongoing technological developments in wireless can be best exploited. A few preliminary statements and general background remarks might help set the scene before we proceed:• Spectrum is a limited resource, as is often said. As a methodological caveat, however, it does not directly follow spectrum is scarce, especially as continuous and significant improvements in efficiency in spectrum usage are under way, as illustrated in the EU IST Programme Research Projects in wireless .• But, and somewhat paradoxically, the hard fact is: spectrum is under-utilised and better management is needed to help at least partially overcome limitations.• Spectrum matters not only in terms of availability, but also of cost, as license fees have reached in certain cases amounts comparable to network equipment. As exposed in the SPORT VIEWS “Business Models” Report , the cost of spectrum is a major factor determining the business case of IMT-Advanced, and the diffusion of services would hugely benefit from all technologies and management methods allowing for low spectrum costs.• High fees or prices can be justified as a ways to cope with a situation of resource limitation. They cannot be justified like in the case of oil for instance, by a mechanism to encourage exploration activities, but they can be justified as an incentive for efficient usage (like in better exploitation of reserves). • The granting of exclusive rights on non-renewable resources must be subject to strong competition oversight.In this context, ensuring more efficiency in spectrum management is needed, including “flexibility” in spectrum usage and management is a dynamic way to achieve this aim. We propose here to:- Explore the whole range of choices available for regulators and industry in establishing a radio spectrum management policy, by expanding beyond the traditional trilogy of Command and Control, Market and Commons.- Organise and clarify the expanded set of alternatives to be considered.- List the criteria on which the necessary choices can be made.- Apply this framework of analysis to a series of “consistent and relevant wireless clusters” which we will introduce.A spectrum management regime comprises a plurality of dimensions , The concepts, and alternatives approaches to efficiency to be considered when assessing the various possible orientations of spectrum management in the context of future wireless technologies, must be explored successively at three decision levels:• Allocation: Service Harmonisation or Service flexibility • Technology: Standardisation or Technology flexibility• Usage rights definition: Alternative regimes• Assignment modes of spectrum rights We will successively examine the above items and alternatives.