The Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA) – a global, cross-industry alliance focused on increasing dynamic access to unused radio frequencies – held its Global Summit 2018 in London (on May 1-3). It took on a lot of issues and, in particular, raised the profile of spectrum sharing. What happens now?

Well, the DSA’s president, Kalpak Gude, believes the locations of the summits are important because the events act as catalysts for regional action. For example, when the conference was held in Colombia in 2016, it was followed by accelerated progress on TV white spaces usage in the Latin American region. The same impact was seen after last year’s summit in South Africa, because regulators and operators were able to share issues, experiences and best practice regarding key spectrum challenges.

Not surprisingly perhaps, in the Latin American and African events, the chief focus was on rural Internet coverage using wireless technology in shared spectrum. This is an issue in Europe too, but with 5G looming, there is a heavier emphasis on 5G-related issues like on-demand access and network slicing.

One message which is heard clearly from events of this type is that the mobile operators will have to share the 5G value chain with a far wider range of players, because there will be more opportunities for non-MNOs to deploy cellular technology via shared and dynamic spectrum. It is no surprise that Google and Microsoft were among the sponsors of the London summit, since they have been advocates of expanded access to spectrum for years now. But spectrum sharing – using schemes like CBRS, Europe’s Licensed Shared Access, TVWS and so on – will free up airwaves that are currently underused or locked into one user; it will thereby expand the platform and revenues for everyone.

That is one of the guiding principles of 5G, and the reason many governments have invested in it – because it will support a far wider ecosystem while still enhancing the established MNOs’ models.

All eyes will soon be on the next World Radio Conference, which takes place in 2019 (WRC-19). The DSA, and other advocates for more dynamic and flexible approaches to spectrum licensing, hope that this will be the first such event to recognise new systems of allocating airwaves. They argue that the issues of primary allocations and rigid timescales will become less relevant over time.

So at the end of the last conference, WRC-15, the DSA welcomed the decision to keep Europe’s sub-700 MHz band for digital TV alone, for now, because that will allow time for regulators and technologists to harness the potential of emerging mechanisms to support spectrum sharing between TV and mobile broadband, using the work in TVWS (TV white space) and other areas as a starting point. It is to be hoped that, even before WRC-19, regulators and technologists will have not just harnessed but wholeheartedly embraced that potential.

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