Home EuropeEurope I 2008 Regulating spectrum – the challenges of new technology

Regulating spectrum – the challenges of new technology

by david.nunes
Mrs Maria Malachtou-Pamballi Dr Stelios D. HimonasIssue:Europe I 2008
Article no.:1
Topic:Regulating spectrum – the challenges of new technology
Author:Mrs Maria Malachtou-Pamballi and Dr Stelios D. Himonas
Title:Minister of Communications and Works and Director, Department of Electronic Communications
Organisation:Ministry of Communications and Works, Republic of Cyprus
PDF size:255KB

About author

Maria Malachtou-Pamballi is the Minister of Communications and Works of the Republic of Cyprus. Until her appointment as Minister, she held the position of Senior Attorney at the Law Office of the Republic of Cyprus. Ms Malachtou-Pamballi was previously a registered and practising attorney and worked in several private law offices in Limassol. The Minister is a member of the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) and has participated in many Committees of Experts of the Council of Europe on behalf of the Republic of Cyprus. Maria Malachtou-Pamballi graduated from the University of Kent at Canterbury with a Bachelor of Arts Degree with Honours, and went on to earn a Master of Law degree in Maritime and Company Law from the University of London. Dr Stelios D. Himonas is the Director of the Department of Electronic Communications at the Ministry of Communications and Works of the Republic of Cyprus. Dr Himonas has also served on the Board of the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority. Prior to returning to Cyprus, Dr Himonas was an Associate Professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering at the New York Institute of Technology in the USA. While there he also collaborated with the Multimedia Communications Research group of Bellcore’s Applied Research Division and served as a reviewer of research papers submitted for publication to the Transactions of the IEEE Proceedings of the IEE, as well as for numerous conferences in the field of communications. Dr Himonas is a member of the Sigma Xi and Eta Kappa Nu honour societies, the New York Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He is listed in the Who is Who in the World, the Who is Who among Human Services Professionals, the Who is Who in the East and the Who is Who in American Education. Dr Himonas received BE, MS and PhD degrees from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, USA, all in electrical engineering.

Article abstract

Network convergence and digital technologies are putting pressure on spectrum management policies as radio access networks increasingly compete with each other. Convergence between fixed, mobile and broadcasting services means that spectrum once allocated to distinct services now carry a variety of services. Spectrum management must be made more relevant and flexible to permit the rapid development of new markets and services. An innovation-friendly, coherent regulatory environment for new technologies fosters the growth of communications services and networks and enhances competitiveness.

Full Article

The technological landscape has changed significantly during the past decade. New communication technologies, new media, the Internet and devices with new functions are expected to meet consumers’ demand for seamless, simple and user-friendly digital tools providing access to an extended range of services and content. Traditionally, audio, video, data or voice communication services were accessed through different networking infrastructures and distinct terminal devices: personal computers connected to the Internet, TV sets picking up broadcast signals, telephones connected to copper/fibre local loops and mobile devices connected to wireless networks. These various networking environments and technologies historically developed based upon very different business models, with different players at each level of the value chain. In the context of the traditional models, a service is intimately coupled with its network infrastructure; a mobile phone call, for example, is conveyed primarily over a dedicated mobile infrastructure and a radio station broadcasts only audio content. Today’s technological convergence radically changes this picture and completely separates the underlying network infrastructure from the services/applications it can deliver to the user at home, at work or when out and about with a mobile terminal. Many challenges and developments brought by convergence can already be seen or predicted with reasonable safety. There will be challenges for infrastructure, innovation, content and management of rights, and there will be challenges connected to competition and business environment, security, consumer issues and interoperability. For spectrum regulators, this telecommunications revolution presents both great challenges and opportunities. The importance of radio spectrum for electronic communications services and networks, intended for mobile, wireless and satellite communications, TV and radio broadcasting, has increased dramatically during the past decade, and the trend is expected to continue. Although spectrum is traditionally regarded as a national resource, national borders are increasingly irrelevant to wireless electronic communication services. Many operators and equipment manufacturers have global reach, so the challenges we face are of both a national and international nature. They range from the basic issue of structuring a regulatory agency to providing spectrum access to interested enterprises and facilitating innovation. The opportunities are immediate and profound. As technology has improved and advanced, government agencies and authorities worldwide have changed. Many are still evolving. This combination of rapidly growing telecommunications coupled with more open regulatory environments and liberalized markets is powerful and promising. As we welcome a new era in communications, we are in a position to have a significant and positive effect on a national, regional and international basis. Beginning at home, spectrum regulators can play a pivotal role in ensuring that their country maximises its resources to build a strong and inclusive telecommunications and information infrastructure. Principled decision-making will not only benefit consumers and industry in the domestic market, but also will enrich the global information community. The rapid development of wireless technology and the increasing demand for bandwidth have drastically raised the importance of access to radio spectrum for the economy and society as a whole. According to recent studies, the estimated total value of services dependent on radio spectrum in the EU is around €250 billion. Immediate priorities for fostering innovation and competitiveness include the development of spectrum allocation models meeting all objectives, the fast promotion of advanced mobile services, and a coordinated approach to the use of spectrum capacity that is becoming available as a result of the switch-over from analogue to digital transmission. Matching market demand to service definition has always been a challenge for spectrum regulators. In today’s environment, however, fixed, mobile and broadcast services are all converging and the demand for certain services, such as mobile and Internet, has grown far beyond earlier predictions, but developments in radio technology have led to far more efficient methods of sharing spectrum to meet the needs of a wide range of users. Rapid innovation has created a need for speedier access to spectrum for individuals and service providers than is possible under traditional methods. This points to the need for greater flexibility in the management and harmonisation of spectrum resources for wireless electronic communications. At the same time, convergence between fixed, mobile and broadcasting services means that spectrum originally intended for distinct services is now used for services that compete against each other. This requires handling spectrum in a coherent way. Wherever possible, constraints attached to the usage of specific radio spectrum bands must be removed and spectrum management must be made more relevant to the rapid development of new markets and services. The convergence trend and the increasing use of digital technologies are putting pressure on spectrum management policies as radio access networks increasingly compete with each other. For the bands used to deliver electronic communications services to the consumer, it is important that spectrum regulation also keeps pace with increasing digitalisation and provides coherent authorisation conditions, ensures effective and efficient spectrum use and keeps the operation of radio systems free from harmful interference. The growth of wireless systems will significantly increase demand for radiofrequency spectrum. To meet this demand, it may become necessary to re-form certain bands and relocate particular services to other parts of the spectrum. However, the need to respond quickly to such changes in demand, together with the pace of innovation, increasingly places pressure on the traditional command and control approach to spectrum management. Technological and service neutrality are already general principles of the current EU regulatory framework for electronic communications. These principles give spectrum holders the right, in most circumstances, to choose the radio network and access technologies they use and the services they deploy in their licensed spectrum bands. Technological and service neutrality increase the flexibility of spectrum policy. Flexibility in the use of spectrum can boost European economic growth by fostering innovation. Moreover, spectrum tradability adds to technology and service neutrality, by ensuring a high level of fluidity of radio resources, reducing the costs of usage rights. To achieve this, it is crucial to establish a mechanism by which all European countries jointly identify tradable bands. Finally, this technology convergence and wireless blossom can have a significant impact on the competitiveness and cohesion of Europe in terms of productivity gains and social impacts. Wireless technologies are the most promising means to bridge the broadband gap and overcome the digital divide, especially in remote and rural areas. Our long-term goal should be to develop approaches ensuring that spectrum issues related to the growing and evolving variety of radio systems comply with the EU’s overall policy. By ensuring an innovation-friendly and coherent regulatory environment and facilitating rapid access to spectrum for new technologies, we foster the development of a wide variety of wireless electronic communications services and networks. This, in turn, enhances European competitiveness.

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