Providing Spectrum for Innovation

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Oct 16, 2008

IT Web

Spectrum is a significant national resource and needs to be allocated in a transparent way. This is according to Steve Song, fellow at the Shuttleworth Foundation, who presented at this year's MobileActive08 Summit, hosted by the Southern African NGO Network and, this week.

He says countries across the world are allocating spectrum to telecommunications providers and many are exploring an open policy to do it. “With spectrum being opened around the world, I believe that SA could follow in those footsteps and drastically increase competition and innovation.”

According to Song, the current process used by the Independent Communications Authority of SA is a safe method. “They can't really go wrong with the regulated way they are allocating spectrum. However, they are just following the International Telecommunications Union's guidelines.”

He points out that WiFi spectrum was hardly regulated and innovation sprung up around the technology. “Who would have thought that today you could have wireless hotspots everywhere and demand wireless Internet in every hotel room?”

With spectrum on the minds of many local telecoms providers, Song says these businesses need to remember that WiMax spectrum is not the only option left. “The lower down the spectrum is in frequency, the better it is. You need fewer base stations, because it uses different propagation methods.”

Song says the old rule of keeping existing spectrum far apart is changing. “We used to have to make sure used spectrum could not interfere with each other. Technology is changing and spectrum can flow closer together.”

He says over the next 10 years, a system known as cognitive radio will allow spectrum to fly through each other.

Digital migration will open up a large quantity of spectrum and Song says civil society needs to start speaking up now to make sure it is allocated openly and fairly.

“There has been so much spectrum allocated that is not being used. Many organisations are just squatting on it. Creating a spectrum commons will change that by driving open completion and innovation.”