Wireless Game-Changer: FCC Proposes Airwave-Sharing Scheme

A new spectrum sharing rule proposed by the Federal Communications Commission would be the biggest wireless regulatory change in decades and could prove a pivotal move in addressing ever-increasing data traffic. “Under the proposed rule, wireless carriers, corporate offices, or researchers could reserve pieces of that spectrum in different regions and at different times — a system managed by a central database,” Technology Review explains.

“The approach guarantees that the spectrum will be available and not subject to interference in certain areas by a crush of new users, as might happen if the new chunk of spectrum were made available with no regulation at all.”

The step “is a critical milestone,” says David Tennenhouse, Microsoft’s VP of technology policy. In addition to releasing more spectrum, the rule will enable “dynamic spectrum sharing that is particularly well suited for absorbing growing wireless data traffic,” he says.

“Cisco Systems estimates that mobile data traffic will grow by a factor of 18 by 2016, and Bell Labs predicts it will increase by a factor of 25,” notes the article. “Many more airwaves could eventually be shared with the help of cognitive radios, which sense available frequencies and shift between them.”

The rule applies to spectrum in the 3.550 to 3.650 gigahertz band, which is currently used by radar systems. At first, the “checked-out” spectrum might be free, but a pricing system may eventually be implemented to allow a wireless carrier to pay for priority access in times of extreme high demand.

“Whatever the details, the move spells the beginning of the end of a system in which spectrum is either exclusively owned by a private company, walled off for government and military use, or unlicensed and crowded,” suggests the article.

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