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For instance, terrestrial broadcast television now competes with both cable and satellite transmission, and they all compete with video delivered by streaming or download over the Internet. Spectrum once dedicated to a particular use becomes less valuable as alternative uses become more valuable. An obvious example is the spectrum once reserved for analog television broadcasting channels and freed when broadcast television completed its transition to all-digital transmission.

Still another aspect of shifting market dynamics is related to the globalization of markets. Global markets for wireless communications devices have been driven not so much by global travelers, which are relatively few, as by the global economies of scale associated with common components, common products, and consistent standards that make it possible to develop products and services for large markets. Where differences do exist, decreasing component costs and increasing miniaturization have enabled multimode devices such as tri- and quad-mode cell phones that sidestep some of the harmonization issues.

There appears to be a broad consensus that the current framework for spectrum policy is ripe for change. A number of significant policy changes reflect efforts to adjust to new technologies and to shift some control from central management to markets and open bands. This section reviews the origins of the present policy regime and some recent efforts to make changes. There are several potential historiographies of the emergence of wireless communications policy in the United States.

Each represents a particular perspective on the proper role for government and for markets in the management of spectrum.

This section starts with a brief summary of the official administrative story—that is, the legislative and regulatory actions beginning with the Radio Act of Three additional perspectives reflect actual or perceived motivations, priorities, and consequences from alternative points of view. Often unstated or implied in current spectrum policy debates, these stories color the assumptions and arguments made by the diverse policy stakeholders, with numerous important implications for spectrum policy analysis.

They also serve to reveal the many potential pitfalls for spectrum policy making. The administrative story begins with the demise of the Titanic and the sense that potential rescuers could not be reached because of a lack of coordinated communications. The Radio Act of was meant to address such issues, but a court decision in United States v. Zenith Radio Corp.


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The provisions of the act were mostly incorporated into the Communications Act of , which unified the regulatory regime for nongovernmental use of spectrum for telephone, telegraph, and radio under the control of the FCC. Regulation of governmental spectrum use was assigned to the executive branch, and eventually, in the s, to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration NTIA of the Department of Commerce. This split addressed concerns about concentrating licensing authority, as reflected in the court decision.

This historiography presents spectrum management as a straightforward technical problem, to be solved to the extent possible and necessary by the most direct and straightforward regulatory mechanism. It then follows the battle over the following decade that resulted in direct control through the Independent Radio Advisory Committee and the NTIA over much of wireless communications capacity, and indirect control through the private-public arrangement embodied in the FCC over the remainder.

There are nuances to this story.

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Early versions focused on overly zealous regulation and the scarcity of capacity it caused. The business story focuses on the moves of the industrial players in the first quarter of the 20th century. Additional source: NBC v. Thomas W. Through a variety of techniques, some developed in the market, some through the patent system, and some through the regulatory system, the broadcasting industry had settled by on the advertiser-supported networks using government-granted exclusive licenses that dominated until very recently.

The following years of industry consolidation saw a shift from what was primarily an equipment-market-driven phenomenon in the s e. It also saw the shift from spectrum allocation by the secretary of commerce to allocation by an independent agency, the FCC. However, the basic structure was set in place even before—and independent of—formal legislation. A third, and final, nonofficial story is the story of the battle between entrenched broadcasters and advocates concerned with a public interest in spectrum and publicly minded broadcast policy.

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In this story, much of the action that matters most occured later than in either of the two other nonofficial stories—in the period between the advent of broadcast radio and passage of the Communications Act of During that time, a variety of education, labor, religious, press, and civic groups opposed the network-based and advertising-supported system that was emerging and advocated for setting aside significant capacity for nonprofit and non-commercial broadcasting.

Broadcast communications policy is perhaps the most visible of wireless policies for most Americans. The political power of broadcasters, coupled with. Robert W. The allocation of frequencies for a particular use what is permitted to operate in a range of frequencies is distinct from their assignment who is permitted to use that range of frequencies.

Allocation was historically made through rule making; recent years have seen a shift from assignment by comparative hearing to auctions and the introduction of secondary markets to allow market-based reassignment. The vast majority of licenses to operate wireless devices and systems in the United States are assigned in an administrative process either by the FCC, which has jurisdiction over use by private and state, local, and tribal users, or by the NTIA, which has jurisdiction over use by federal agencies.

Licenses typically include limits on the use of the equipment licensed which are typically designated in terms of the following:. The antenna location and height or other design characteristics such as direction ;. The number of other potential licensees to use equipment with equivalent characteristics; and. The relations among licensees e.

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Licenses typically also limit the types of services that can be offered; for example, a television band licensee cannot use that spectrum for any other use. Devices that receive and decode but cannot transmit wireless communications are not subject to the same regulatory framework although. The advantages of not specifying particular services are compellingly illustrated in the diversity of services that have been implemented in unlicensed bands.

Note that because receivers contain local oscillators to detect the signal or for their computational elements that may interfere with other transmissions, they are subject to limits on these unintentional emissions. Starting with changes made to the Communications Act in , Congress has sought to encourage competition and innovation and to recognize the evolving technological reality. Changes to the Communications Act authorize the FCC to collect license fees, conduct spectrum auctions, and provide for spectrum allocation flexibility.

The opening of new bands and the auctioning of spectrum rights, together with significant technological developments, is credited, for example with having enabled tremendous growth in the number of cell phone subscribers.


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  5. Complementing these market-based mechanisms has been growing use of open bands, in which all users are free to operate subject only to rules of the road. In recent years, two U. Recent specific policy changes have included approval of ultrawideband operation, which represents a new, fundamentally different way of thinking about wireless transmission and is also the first instance.

    Several major federal policy initiatives were launched in recent years.

    1. Introduction

    Seeking to exploit the opportunity opened by new technological capabilities, the Spectrum Policy Task Force SPTF approached not only the problem of the need for changes to spectrum management and allocation but also the long-term need to allow further change to happen readily in anticipation of such technological advance. The SPTF report of introduced new models and ways of thinking about the rights of users and licensees, about the accommodation of market forces, and about the preparation for future radio technologies beyond the horizon.

    The report offers a number of findings and recommendations aimed at improving spectrum policy and ensuring that it is able to evolve with technology and applications. The SPTF report summarizes the regulatory history of spectrum policy in the United States from its beginnings more than 90 years ago, covering both statutory and administrative aspects.

    It also notes that public interest use, such as for public safety communications and national defense, is an ongoing consideration of the regulatory process and is factored into policy decisions along with economic considerations driven by private-sector demand for services and applications. The SPTF report makes the case for spectrum policy reform, stating that the dramatic increase in demand for spectrum-based services coupled with significant and continuing technological advances makes reform not only possible but also necessary.

    It argues that these new and evolving dynamics are straining long-standing, outmoded spectrum policies that, unchanged, will fail to maximize the potential public benefits of spectrum-based services and applications. Additionally, the report notes that spectrum scarcity is of increasing concern. It refers to some evidence that allocated spectrum is being underutilized and calls for more comprehensive measurements of spectrum use to be undertaken.

    It sees better understanding of actual use as one means of identifying where scarcity might be mitigated through more efficient allocation and greater flexibility. The SPTF report identifies seven key elements for a new approach to spectrum policy:. Maximizing flexibility of spectrum use. A flexible-use approach to spectrum policy, in contrast to the traditional command-and-control approach, allows licensed and unlicensed users maximum autonomy to determine the highest-value use of their spectrum and allows them to make choices based on market factors.

    Clear and exhaustive definition of spectrum rights and responsibilities. Clarity in the rules governing use would create an environment for spectrum users to confidently negotiate alternative arrangements for maximizing value.

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    Rules should be written to identify uses that are excluded, prohibited, or limited, allowing users to explore any options not explicitly prohibited. Accounting for all dimensions of spectrum use. Spectrum should be allocated using time in addition to traditional dimensions of frequency, space, and power. Technology advances also make possible new approaches to allocation in these traditional dimensions. Promoting efficiency. Three types of efficiency are identified: spectral, technical, and economic.

    There are situations where spectral and technical efficiency may take priority over economic efficiency in order to promote public interest goals. However, economic efficiency can be promoted by providing spectrum users with flexibility of use and ease of transferability. This could allow maximizing of the value of services provided. To the extent possible grouping like systems or devices e.

    Periodic review of rules. Rules should be reviewed so that they can be adjusted in light of technological advances made since those rules were made. Such reviews should be scheduled at intervals that permit adjustment of business plans and investments. Enforcement increases in complexity with the complexity of technology and applications. Proper enforcement requires sufficient resources for monitoring use of the spectrum.

    The remainder of the SPTF report focuses on approaches for avoidance of interference, alternative spectrum usage models, and promotion of access to spectrum. First, the SPTF report addresses avoidance of interference, a problem that has been a major responsibility of the FCC from its beginning and has always been a challenge. The issues related to interference have increased in technical difficulty and prevalence due to changes created by new technology and new applications. The SPTF report argues that these changes will challenge the continued effectiveness of current approaches to managing interference avoidance.

    It states that a more quantitative approach to interference management should be pursued by the FCC. The SPTF report recommends that the FCC move toward assessing interference based on real-time adaptation, actual spectrum use, and interactions between transmitters and receivers rather than on transmitter operations alone, as is currently done.

    Control of interference could be improved by several methods other than measurement, including approaches that account for and promote receiver robustness, increased use of automated transmitter power and frequency, advanced antenna technology, tightening of out-of-band emission limits, harmonizing references to interference, developing technical bulletins explaining FCC rules regarding interference, and developing a best-practices handbook.

    Three models are described, including command-and-control, exclusive-use, and a commons or open-access model. The SPTF report concludes that spectrum policy is not generally best served by the traditional command-and-control approach but mostly requires striking a balance between the exclusive rights and commons models.

    The report presents the alternatives as offering a continuum over which elements of the different models may be incorporated in particular instances as necessary to best serve the public good. It identifies factors that may favor the application of one model over another depending on circumstances.

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    Generally, the SPTF report argues that the exclusive-use model may best be applied where spectrum is relatively scarce and transaction costs associated with market mechanisms are relatively low.