There might just be growing recognition among national communication regulators that spectrum policy requires much more flexibility than in the past.
“Old approaches are ill suited to quickly changing environments,” said Chinese Taipei National Communications Commission Commissioner Dr. Shin-yi Peng, who also is a professor of law at National Tsing Hua University.
As one example, Peng noted that when Taiwan finalized its 4G license rules, it chose a technologically neutral approach that does not specify what technologies must be used, allowing operators to move quickly.
“Stakeholders asked us whether the licenses would be tradeable,” and Peng said that will be possible. “A secondary market will exist.”
And though large incumbents traditionally have dominated spectrum auctions, Thailand is looking at ways to help smaller and local Internet access providers, for whom free Wi-Fi is most important.
But backhaul is an issue, said Jesada Sivaraks, National Broadcasting & Telecommunications Commission of Thailand Secretary. The reason is that many smaller ISPs try to use existing unlicensed frequencies for backhaul, which causes interference issues. So Thailand is looking at whether it can use the E band at 60 GHz, to help small and local providers with backhaul.
Another new line of thinking concerns ways to increase usable spectrum without using the traditional approach of clearing spectrum, relocating existing licensed users, and then auctioning or allocating the cleared spectrum.
“Moving licensees is viewed as difficult,” said Peng. So “spectrum sharing turns out to be an important policy tool.”
“Dynamic spectrum access is new, and we are looking at it,” said Pricilla Demition. National Telecommunications Commission of the Philippines Chief, Frequency Management Division.
Even in the area of mobile backhaul, there is new thinking. The issue is how to get middle mile connections to serve remote areas. It isn’t as though access spectrum scarce. But middle mile facilities often are lacking
“Licensed mobile operators know it will be years before they get out there,” says Robert Pepper, Cisco VP. “So they are partnering, using LTE for backhaul, then using Wi-Fi to distribute signals in the village.”
“Regulators are starting to see advantages to cooperation between licensed and unlicensed operators,” said Pepper.
Commissioner Peng noted that Taiwan allows use of 3G in 1.8 GHz for backhaul, but only in rural areas.
“LTE for backhaul might be only 1 Mbps to 10 Mbps, which will not be enough bandwidth for local use,” said Sevaraks. “Mesh Wi-Fi might work as well, as might C-band repurposing for mobile or terrestrial communications.”
“The crux of the matter is how to create more useful spectrum,” said Peng.