One theme never too far from the surface, when spectrum sharing in any of its forms was the subject, is the nearly-immediate turn to issues of supply and demand. That was very much the case at the Pacific Telecommunications Council Spectrum Futures conference held in Singapore Sept. 10 and 11, 2015.
Speakers almost reflexively mentioned blockages, inefficiencies and barriers to the supply of capacity to users at affordable prices, as well as barriers to unleashing end user demand, no matter what technical issues were being discussed.
The whole point of shared spectrum, said Robert Pepper, Cisco VP, Peter Stanforth, Spectrum Bridge CTO and founder, H Sama Nwana, Dynamic Spectrum Alliance executive director and others, was to wring maximum usefulness out of available spectrum.
And that requires new ways of thinking. Where always in the past interference avoidance was the issue, using new tools we can essentially operate with a more-relaxed approach to interference issues, said Jeffrey Yan, Microsoft technology policy director.
A statement easy to misunderstand, Yan and others pointed out that devices and databases can be used to dynamically adjust network access, as required, to avoid interference.
Regulators, on the other hand, agreed that spectrum sharing, in many forms, is the future, if also pointing out they do not yet have formal enabling legislation in place, for even a few of the potential forms of spectrum sharing, noted Woro Indah Widiastuty, Indonesia Ministry of Communication and Information Technology senior technology adviser.
Chaucer Leung, Hong Kong Office of the Communications Authority assistant director, agreed, while noting cross-border coordination would be fundamentally important, something regulators from Vietnam and Cambodia said was also important in their areas.
In other cases, even when there is intent to release new spectrum, it simply takes too long, said Wan Faizal Wan Hassan, Axiata Group Berhard AVP.
In other cases, inefficiency has been built in because of fragmented spectrum allocations that chew up much potential usable bandwidth in the form of guard bands, for example, something Rajan Mathews, Cellular Operators Association of India executive director, noted.
That is why Spectrum Futures was organized on the principle of “business impact” of policy, technology and practice.
The bottom line is that connectivity to the Internet will generally be spectrum-based across most of the world, and especially so in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Real though the blockages might be, no policy matters can be divorced from end user demand or supplier economics.
Even when discussion formally was centered on licensed or license-exempt approaches, command and control decisions versus flexible allocation, everything came back to aligning the ecosystem so supply can be rapidly increased to meet demand.
And requirements can be stringent, many noting the context of end users who really cannot afford to pay too much to get Internet access. One example, end user ability of pay of about $2 a month.