Real Wireless attended the 10th annual European Spectrum Management Conference last week in Brussels, which is a key event on the spectrum management calendar. The well-attended conference covers the most relevant topics in spectrum management with representation from across the industry including regulators, vendors, operators and industry associations. The conference is worthwhile to gain a sector status update from a broad cross sector of the industry. The two-day event is divided into a number of sessions in which a particular relevant topic is discussed by a panel of industry representatives that varied depending on the discussion.

Day 1

In the first sessions, the panel discussed the future of the 700 MHz band and considered the development of a blueprint for the benefit of users and consumers in Europe. Keynote speeches about the impact of this on spectrum policy at the European Commission, RSPG and BEREC was highlighted. Talks from both the broadcast industry and mobile industry presented their respective cases for using the band, which demonstrated how key stakeholders would be affected by the transition. It was clear in some countries such as Italy, which is a heavy user of the 700 MHz band for DTT viewers and broadcasters, will be affected. In contrast other countries such as the Netherlands would not be so affected and could benefit from a swift move to mobile services.

A session on offloading discussed how Wi-Fi and small cells have helped and will continue to help to ease congestion on macro networks, which now includes LTE-LAA. The session provided an overview of how different methods including satellite can contribute to easing network congestion. However, there was no mention of the difference in costs for these solutions, which would have helped demonstrate which solutions would likely offer the most cost-effective solution.

The second half of the afternoon included breakout sessions on auctions and spectrum awards best practice — which I was allocated — and backhaul. These sessions were interactive and lively particularly the spectrum auction session given that the German multi band spectrum auction was going on in parallel.

Day 2

The second day commenced with a session on WRC ’15 common ground, areas of disagreement and likely outcomes. Presentations from Africa, Europe and China provided a broad overview of the impact each of the key agenda items would have on these regions. Notably there was common agreement and support for 700 MHz allocation for mobile services and some disagreement between sectors in relation to coexistence with mobile and satellite in C-Band amongst others.

The second session on delivering a world-leading mobile ecosystem in Europe was interesting because it covered current issues facing the mobile industry today — namely how mobile operators can overcome declining revenues from subscribers and limited funding for network investment at a time when Europe plans to lead in 5G. There were comparisons with the model used in the US and Canada in which auction proceeds and revenues are still increasing.

The third session discussed innovative technologies and policies to improve spectrum efficiency, which included presentations from regulators, operators and advisors. It covered the different innovative methods currently used for licensing and releasing spectrum. For example in Sweden they no longer apportion spectrum via exclusive licensing, instead focusing on better management and sharing. In the US the FCC described its approach to sharing the 3.5 GHz spectrum for low-power access. Other talks mentioned the challenges and complexities of sharing for PPDR and the satellite/fixed links in the C-Band.

The final session addressed the changing face of spectrum management between 2005 and 2025. A panel responded to statements and questions about where spectrum management we will be in 10 years’ time. This session required audience participation by voting against a set of predetermined questions. The key questions sought to address the issues include the largest influencers in spectrum management and what methodologies will be in place to continue the development of spectrum management. Overall it was felt that in 10 years. the European Commission would have the largest influence and that we would be in a similar position to where we are now but with some changes in approach.

Real Wireless’s view of the conference

Overall the event provided useful interaction with spectrum management colleagues within Europe and beyond. The topics and material were interesting with lively debates and reactions from industry demonstrating that spectrum management is fundamental to the continuous evolution and success of wireless technologies. We look forward to participating in at the 11th annual spectrum management conference and providing support and advice to the sector.

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