Managing shared spectrum through a geo-location database

9th September 2015

In our previous blog posts we talked about our work on TV white spaces (TVWS). Today I’d like to talk about the geo-location database and how this can be useful for spectrum sharing.

Sharing will become increasingly important as wireless demand increases. By allowing different users to offer more wireless applications, spectrum sharing can bring benefits to citizens and consumers as well as contributing to optimal use of spectrum.

Regulatory bodies have designed frameworks for managing shared spectrum through the use of geo-location databases. Radios willing to transmit on shared spectrum need to contact one of these databases to obtain the available spectrum in their location.  Going through several iterations of the regulatory framework is what will make this new approach successful. Just like we expect radios to improve (and the costs go down), we also expect the regulatory framework to go through a number of iterations that will unleash even more spectrum and meet the ever-growing demand.

UK communication regulator Ofcom is not wasting any time. Even though TVWS is still yet to launch in the UK, Ofcom has already established two sub-groups of the TV White Spaces Technical Working Group with the aim to refine the current data and algorithms. This commitment to improve the technical details of the framework shows how keen the UK regulator and stakeholders are to make TVWS communication successful. Moreover, in order to respond to the fact that there are currently no devices available that fully comply with the ETSI standard, required for operation in Europe, Ofcom has consulted the stakeholders about modifying the current framework to make sure that existing devices will be able to operate in the UK market. The final statement about how to manage these devices is expected at the end of September.

With time I expect the pure geo-location database approach to evolve into a more advanced approach where databases share information with each other, and include real time feedback from radios. Moreover, through geo-location databases changes and refinements to the rules can be implemented in a simple and iterative way, thus lowering the development times and costs for all stakeholders, from Ofcom to network providers.

Managing TV white spaces through geo-location databases is the first important effort to achieve dynamic spectrum management, but this approach can obviously go beyond the use in TV bands; in fact, it can be used in many portions of spectrum. In the UK, Ofcom is consulting on a model for considering whether other frequencies have the potential to be shared.

Now that TVWS is close to be publicly available in the UK (due early 2016), I am excited that Ofcom is thinking about replicating the shared spectrum model in other spectrum bands. As strong supporter of managing spectrum in an efficient and dynamic way, I am sure that everybody will benefit from this opportunity.