Overcoming the Spectrum Challenge to Reach Its Maximum Potential

I’ve been focused on developing new products and technologies that advance the mobile network since the late 90s. It really came as no surprise to me that we were quickly headed toward spectrum scarcity. That’s why I joined Federated Wireless—to head it off. Many others may not have the whole story, though, so I thought I’d share it.

Every day, people tap into this increasingly scarce resource without even knowing it. As they use their mobile phones, connect to Wi-Fi on their laptops and tablets, listen to the radio, or navigate their way around via GPS, they connect to invisible airwaves called spectrum. The challenge with the spectrum is that it is finite. The available spectrum is quickly running out.

While the average consumer may not be aware of the looming spectrum problem, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) predicts the number of devices connected to mobile networks worldwide will grow tenfold by 2020, from 5 billion to 50 billion. Not only will this put an even greater crunch on the spectrum outdoors, but it will also present greater issues with wireless coverage indoors, where 80 percent of wireless traffic occurs. It is only a matter of time before there simply will not be enough room for everyone who relies on spectrum to actually access spectrum, making it imperative for the wireless industry to quickly find a solution.

Wireless spectrum availability is limited, but equally challenging for mobile operators is how to access the spectrum that exists. Currently, manual spectrum auctions, a process by which operators bid against each other, are the only way bands of spectrum can be purchased. The acquisition costs are high, pushing into the billions of dollars, and the process is lengthy, creating a model that excludes organizations that may not be of a certain size or financial status. This current model is also not designed to maximize the use of limited spectrum, forcing operators to purchase full spectrum bands when they don’t immediately need the full capacity. This means that precious spectrum bands sit idle and are unavailable to other organizations that may truly need them. The finite nature of the spectrum and the current economic and capacity challenges must be overcome if businesses and the consumers they serve are to realize the full benefit of the spectrum well into the future.

That’s why Federated Wireless is leading a monumental transformation. We are extending spectrum access to the mass market by advancing the shared spectrum concept introduced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). We have spent the last 5 years leading the creation of the shared spectrum market from the ground up, developing and nurturing the necessary standards, and working to ensure that customer deployments can be successful in all network environments.

Now, operators no longer have to purchase entire bands of spectrum. Instead, they can access a portion of the newly available 3.5 GHz, or Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), spectrum when and where they need it and for the appropriate capacity. The technology that enables this new shared economy model and transforms the process of wireless spectrum acquisition is our spectrum controller solution. Our shared spectrum management solution is cloud-based and completely hardware-agnostic, and it recently received conditional certification from the FCC. This hardware independence gives us the unique perspective and experience to help operators create and deploy spectrum-based services that are good for both businesses and customers. Our robust set of APIs and patented machine learning and spectrum management algorithms simplify CBRS deployments, helping businesses to improve both time-to-market and time-to-revenue while decreasing development costs. In addition, our shared economy model offers standardized subscription costs and pricing to make accessing the spectrum more cost-effective for customers of all sizes.

I’m proud to be a part of a company that is unlocking a spectrum of possibilities by breaking down barriers to the wireless spectrum. Together, we are giving greater access to operators by creating a shared economy model for what was previously individually licensed—essentially “Uberizing” the spectrum. Our unique approach to spectrum allows it to be better utilized and leveraged for a broad range of services, ensuring that this finite resource is available for the next wave of mobile business innovation.

If you’re wondering what’s next for shared spectrum, find out how we moved the needle at the Mobile World Congress.

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