- Read the full Ofcom Spectrum Framework Review Statement here
- See also "Note of the Fifty Sixth Meeting of the Ofcom Board, held at Ofcom, London on 7 June 2005": Information Papers 9: The following papers were noted: i) Market Monthly Update, ii) Spectrum Framework Review Statement (see Ofcom website here)
- Ofcom press release
Ofcom today published the conclusion of its Spectrum Framework Review, setting out its approach to the future management of radio spectrum in the UK. The Review advocates a market-led approach, in contrast to the previous regime under which the regulator decided the type of organisation that should have access to specific parts of the spectrum, and how they should be used. Ofcom’s proposals were subject to public consultation and were broadly supported by stakeholders. - Full Ofcom press release here
- Press coverage
"(...) The regulator envisions market forces will manage 72% of
spectrum, while 7% will fall under license-exempt use, and the
other 21% will be managed under current Ofcom approaches. The Open
Spectrum Foundation, which lobbies for more radio bands for license
exempt use, called Ofcom's decision disappointing. Ofcom 'made a few
minor changes, like agreeing to periodic surveys of congestion in
some of the unlicensed bands,' said Dir. Robert Horvitz. But it
failed to understand its own statement that where use of particular
equipment for wireless telegraphy isn't likely to cause harmful
interference, that use must be exempt from license requirements, he
said. Capping license-exempt spectrum at 800MHz or estimating how
much of it is 'needed' is simply wrongheaded,' he said. Ofcom is
required by law to justify the need for licensing, not license
exemption, Horvitz said."
Note: this note appeared in Communications Daily on 29 June 2005 and appears here with special permission of Warren Communications News, a subscription news service available here
[For further on legal issues of licence-exempt access see Open Spectrum Foundation, "Radio licensing and the right to communicate" here and "New UK Group to Push for Unlicensed Spectrum," by Nancy Gohring, Wi-Fi Net News Europe, 25 February 2005 here ]
Background: Open Spectrum UK advocacy
- is an advocate for the balance of the public and the commercial interest in access to and use of the radio spectrum, with particular reference to the right of Licence-Exempt access
- Open Spectrum UK was convened in January 2005 in order to make a submission to the Ofcom Spectrum Framework Review. This submission was signed by 10 UK non-profit organisations, engaged in community wireless networking and communications policy issues.
- Open Spectrum UK is convened by John Wilson (co-founder Arwain.net) and Julian Priest (co-founder Consume.net), and has worked in collaboration with Open Spectrum Foundation
Wireless Utopias 05: An Open Future for Spectrum?
“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.”
Cybersalon and Open Spectrum UK host the second event in their Wireless Utopias series - a unique debate on the future of wireless communications and the strategic prospects for utilising the radio spectrum. The context for the evening is the UK communications regulator Ofcom's Spectrum Framework Review. We explore "wireless utopias" from the Open Market to Open Spectrum. This event is a part of Wireless London
The evening includes:
Experts Roundtable - a panel of distinguished international and UK experts explore the big issues of technology, regulation and society. This is a unique opportunity to learn about the experience, vision and strategy of our wireless technologists, pioneers, and policy-makers.
John Wilson (Open Spectrum UK)
Michael Marcus (former FCC; USA)
Dewayne Hendricks (Dandin Group; California, USA)
Onno Perbo (Indonesia)
Peter Bury (Ofcom)
William Webb (Ofcom)
Gordon Adgey (Broadband4Devon)
Peter Cochrane (Concept Labs)
Q&A - exploring the strategic agenda for wireless communications, locating spectrum reform in the UK within the wider international context.
See event listing here and event web-page here
Michael Marcus, joined the Federal Communications Commission in 1979 where he held a variety of positions relating to technical policy and radio monitoring. He proposed and was responsible for the 1985 spread spectrum decision that established the unlicensed bands for spread spectrum, setting the stage for both CDMA cellular and Wi-Fi technologies. In his Think Piece for the Wireless Utopias 05: Towards an Open Future for Spectrum? session, " Thoughts on Basic Issues of Spectrum Policy", Marcus looks towards future potentials for the sharing of the radio spectrum:
"Classic spectrum management inevitably results in lots of “white space” – spectrum that is properly allocated and licensed but is unused at a given location and time. Even in crowded metropolitan areas there can be quite a large amount of white space. Why? Many users are able to demand spectrum from the regulator independent of marketplace forces and have little marginal cost on holding on to lightly used spectrum. Other users have highly time variable demands and demand spectrum sized to their peak needs even if this results in low average utilization. Traditional radio technology also gave few options to use here. But cognitive radio technology and secondary market policies are two new options to get rid of the white space and increase effective spectrum utilization".
"Cognitive radio technology searchs for available spectrum, either passively or in cooperation with licensees, and then allows it to be used on a noninterfering basis with the original licensee. It could be used for unlicensed services or licensed services. The present FCC rulemaking on unlicensed use of the TV spectrum is actively exploring the options here and they are very controversial".
"Secondary market policies, already permitted in the US for many classes of radio licensees, permit licensees to make private arrangements with others to “lease” their spectrum. While some view this as “unjust enrichment” for inefficient spectrum users, in the real world it is difficult for government regulators to take spectrum away from the “haves” without compensation and give it the “have nots” and at least the spectrum ends up being more heavily used and the increased availability drives down prices. Other regulators are moving slower than the US in this area".
"The growing success of Wi-Fi systems in the US and other countries has resulted in a reexamination of the role of unlicensed systems. The previous assumption that unlicensed systems would not attract investment was clearly over simplified. Unlicensed is not longer the step child of the spectrum management community although a controversy continues as too how large a role it should play in the future". - Read Michael J Marcus,Sc.D.,FIEEE, "Thoughts on Basic Issues of Spectrum Policy" here
Extract from John Wilson, Towards an Open Spectrum Policy?:
*Spectrum reform- from resource to commodity?*
We are currently engaged in a period of global reform and transition in Spectrum Management Policy. In country after country, the regulatory state is playing catch-up with the revolution in digital (radio) technologies and is examining new ways of allocating rights of access and use for the radio spectrum.
There was a time a generation ago when the radio spectrum was dubbed "the invisible resource" (Levin). The radio spectrum was characterised as a common public good and a global resource. A strategic resource to be managed in the public interest.
Since the latter half of the 1990's the market model has been in the ascendancy, with the implementation of auctions (by the FCC) as a means of allocating spectrum access.
In its current Spectrum Framework Review, the UK regulator Ofcom proposes a bold new market approach to spectrum Management Policy (with a focus upon liberalization, market mechanisms - auctions, and spectrum trading). This is a policy departure that is consistent with the UK's role as pacesetter of telecoms liberalization (with the privatization of BT in 1984).
Over the coming months Ofcom is due to issue its response to the submissions to the Spectrum Framework Review (and the related Spectrum Framework Review Implementation Plan).
International experts on spectrum reform view the UK as an exceptional case in the extent to which Ofcom propose using an economic policy tool for spectrum management.
Wireless has been to the fore of the digital revolution. Recent years have seen a dramatic phase of innovation in wireless communications, from the assumption of mobile cellular as an everyday communications medium to the deployment of 802.11 radio technologies - from the license-exempt Wi-Fi explosion to the current Wi-Max hype. A recent OECD report acknowledged UK and European community wireless networks (license-exempt 802.11 wireless) as innovators in broadband access. Wireless remains on the UK Nations and Regions agenda, as a strategic "community first mile" broadband solution.
We need to engage a sense of urgency about the future of wireless communications, as we move towards a new strategic framework for radio spectrum management in the UK.
On a cautionary note, we have the - unmentionable- fiasco of the 3G auctions in the year 2000 as an empirical case of the unintended consequences and adverse epochal impact of economic tools (auctions/game theory) in Spectrum Management Policy.
Above all we need to enable an open future of ubiquitous communications, bandwidth abundance and innovation; not limit ourselves to artificial scarcity, legacy interests, and the foreclosure of future options.
In this shift from spectrum-as-resource to spectrum-as-commodity, focussed debate upon the public interest has been for the greater part conspicuous by its absence.
*We close with consideration of the words of Michael Powell, the Chair of the US government's Federal Communications Commission, prior to the launch of the FCC's Spectrum Policy Task Force*.
Striking a note of both urgency and optimism, Powell's bold vision enjoins the need for a new paradigm in Spectrum Policy appropriate to the new digital wireless technologies and emerging markets and serving the benefit of all consumers - and once again a mixed approach to Spectrum Policy is the order of the day:
"Consumers Deserve a New Spectrum Policy Paradigm: All consumers (…) deserve a new spectrum policy paradigm that is rooted in modern-day technologies and markets. We are living in a world where demand for spectrum is driven by an explosion of wireless technology and the ever-increasing popularity of wireless services. Nevertheless, we are still living under a spectrum “management” regime that is 90 years old. It needs a hard look, and in my opinion, a new direction. (…) Modern technology has fundamentally changed the nature and extent of spectrum use. So the real question is, how do we fundamentally alter our spectrum policy to adapt to this reality? The good news is that while the proliferation of technology strains the old paradigm, it is also technology that will ultimately free spectrum from its former shackles".
"We are truly at a crossroads in the spectrum policy component of the digital migration. We must make critical decisions that balance the interests of existing spectrum users and potential new entrants to ensure that there is every opportunity and incentive to put spectrum to its highest and best use for the benefit of all consumers. It is important to remember that at the end of the day, we're not necessarily looking for one “right” path to our destination. There is no one-size-fits-all model for spectrum policy. We may well find that there are multiple approaches to the spectrum policy peak that should be pursued in different contexts in different spectrum bands over short, medium and long-term horizons".
Read John Wilson, Towards an Open Spectrum Policy? here
Peter Cochrane blogged the Wireless Utopias 05: An Open Future for Spectrum? event:
Peter Cochrane's Blog: Don't hold your breath for 3G | Silicon.com | June 02 2005
Will the mobile industry ever learn? Customers call the shots, not industry or government....
Don't hold your breath for 3G
02.06.05, 12.15 GMT, The Science Museum, London, UK
I just had a meeting with a group of young people who brought back a flood of memories from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, when the UK population wanted commercial radio but the government of the day was wed to a BBC-only world. This resulted in offshore radio stations on trawlers 'illegally' transmitting commercial radio. The government and regulators were outraged, whilst the public and advertisers were delighted. The outcome? Commercial radio was legalised. Public action and opinion won the day!
(...) Well, watch out for 4G, 5G, 6G etc... it is time to watch the users and the technology again! More...