Technology and Spectrum Policy Affecting EU-US Research Collaboration

Posted: 16 Mar 2018

Date Written: March 16, 2018


This paper aims to establish a framework for spectrum issues affecting EU/US research collaborations in 5G, Big Data and IoT/CPS.

These domains rely on connectivity of which radio is an important part. Increasingly, users demand similar services on the move and in fixed environments, and fixed connectivity is provided via radio connections that do not require the same fixed capital investments and are thus easier and cheaper to maintain, extend and update.

The resulting spectrum demand will be met by higher frequencies and better use of current bands e.g. by Dynamic Spectrum Access (DSA) techniques that facilitate flexible and controlled spectrum use by giving individual users, uses, devices, etc. the connectivity required at particular times and places and the impression of almost infinitely wide channels. Particular frequencies may thus move quickly from IoT to M2M to telephony etc. Most solutions rely on trading exclusive spectrum access rights. But this seems an unsustainable dominant model. DSA use will grow steadily but it is unrealistic to expect all spectrum to convert to DSA or for DSA to provide the best long-term solution in all cases. DSA (in various modes) and conventional allocation methods will continue to coexist. Efficiency in some domains may require shared or unregulated access to facilitate experimentation, serve uses where DSA costs outweigh efficiency advantages, etc. We consider three technology-defined areas to conclude that activity will shift from current extremes towards a more varied and dynamic centre ground: - Management modalities will shift to a mix of DSA and uncontrolled regimes within broad interference limits; - Spectrum allocation will become less restricted to specific uses or ‘owners’ and will use new mechanisms; - Spectrum use will become more agile, with short-term, local, transferrable and ‘recombinant’ license alternatives; and - Spectrum policy and regulation will no longer belong exclusively to telecommunications regulators, but will increasingly involve e.g. competition, privacy, financial, health etc. regulators and industry and civil society stakeholders, placing spectrum policy within integrated digital policies.

5G requires increased availability of specific spectral resources for traditional and increasingly varied new players. Therefore it involves almost all current spectrum policy and legal tussles. However, 5G is not the only claimant and its needs must be balanced against others to fit spectrum policy for the future.

IoT/CPS requires local and regional spectrum availability and thus a layered structure of negotiable rights. Its bandwidth, latency, reliability etc. needs may become more flexible given the influence of spectrum policy on technology development e.g. the different timescales and volumes of sensor nets, M2M communications and autonomous mobile devices. These requirements may even produce special spectral management regimes for Smart Cities, Factories, etc. The tensions among potentially incompatible access and utilisation regimes can be dealt with ‘by design’ of device architectures and standards for their interactions.

Wireless data will become much ‘bigger’ in scope and volume. Both can be reduced by analytics, and data can be used to manage data allowing new forms of ‘smart spectrum regulation’ to balance competing policy considerations endogenously, automatically and in ways that are transparent but hard to manipulate.

Suggested Citation

Cave, Jonathan, Technology and Spectrum Policy Affecting EU-US Research Collaboration (March 16, 2018). Available at SSRN:

Jonathan Cave (Contact Author)

University of Warwick ( email )

Gibbet Hill Rd.
Coventry, West Midlands CV4 8UW
United Kingdom

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