Managing Wireless Spectrum … Again

Posted by Rick Aspan on May 16, 2013


This story is getting a little repetitive—in a good way. For the 16thconsecutive year, Comsearch, a CommScope company, has been named official spectrum manager for CTIA 2013, the largest wireless industry event in North America, being held this year from May 21-23 in Las Vegas.

The folks at Comsearch greatly value this role and appreciate their relationship with CTIA—The Wireless Association—and they certainly work hard to contribute to a successful event.

I asked Laura Fontaine, director of interactive solutions for Comsearch, some questions about the CTIA event and spectrum management in general. Laura provided some great information about recent developments in the wireless spectrum industry in addition to explaining what Comsearch does. As always, best of luck to Laura, Comsearch and our friends at CTIA; I hope this year’s show goes off as smoothly as ever.

 Q: As official spectrum manager for CTIA 2013, what does Comsearch do?

Laura FontaineIn a nutshell, Comsearch manages the spectrum needs of exhibitors’ wireless demonstrations. Exhibitors wishing to demonstrate their wireless devices often require use of spectrum owned by an incumbent licensee. We first work with those licensees to find usable spectrum that is then shared by exhibitors. In such a tightly packed environment such as CTIA 2013, the challenge for us is finding solutions that allow multiple demonstrations to successfully operate in close proximity and in many cases reuse the same spectrum.

Q: Is there something different about this year’s event than previous ones?

LauraIt is always a challenge to find available spectrum, especially as newer technologies require larger bandwidths, and carriers expand their networks. Each year, the pool of available spectrum gets smaller. This year is no different.

Q: What is going on with wireless spectrum generally in the US? How about in other countries and regions?

LauraWireless spectrum, whether in the US or worldwide, is always a hot topic. Current issues in the US are related to the President’s spectrum initiatives, specifically the incentive auctions at 600 MHz and re-purposing federal spectrum for commercial operations. Some of this is playing out in the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee (CSMAC), of which Comsearch is a member. Unlicensed TV white space is also generating lots of buzz. Internationally, white space is also hot, along with the never-ending search for spectrum.

Q: We’ve heard a lot about the lack of wireless spectrum to handle all the wireless traffic out there. Is it a major problem?

Laura:The lack of spectrum can probably be best evidenced in the substantial amount of Wi-Fi offload currently being used by wireless carriers to support capacity demands. While it may not be a major problem now, the time horizon for making new spectrum available—generally five to 10 years—means that there needs to be a heavy focus on the issue now.

Q: Are there any other interesting developments in wireless spectrum management?

Laura: Last year, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a report on sharing federal spectrum with non-federal operations. Known as the “PCAST Report,” this has set the discussion for real-time, database-enabled spectrum sharing with a host of federal systems. Earlier this year, the FCC issued a notice of rulemaking on use of the 3.5 GHz band using recommendations from the PCAST report. One of the key recommendations is a tiered access approach to the spectrum that is managed by a database-enabled Spectrum Access System (SAS). The SAS would administer the spectrum based upon real-time need among the new users (such as wireless carriers, hospitals, critical infrastructure providers and wireless ISPs), while protecting federal spectrum users. This would represent a new real-time systemic approach to sharing spectrum among new users as well as with federal incumbent users.



About the Author

Rick Aspan

Rick Aspan, APR, is vice president of Corporate Communications at CommScope. A former journalist, he has more than 25 years of experience in corporate communications functions in the telecom, internet and networking industries at companies such as MCI, Ameritech and Tellabs.