While you might not realize it, the sharing economy — built around software-based systems that manage services by partnering customers with suppliers in real time (such as Seamless, AirBnB and Uber) — strongly mirrors what we’re doing with shared spectrum for the 3.5 GHz band. There is a finite amount of spectrum to support mobile services, while demand for wireless connectivity continues to increase exponentially. As connected devices rapidly grow in number, size and complexity, shared spectrum offers a new mechanism for matching wireless demand with supply to support new services while ensuring spectrum doesn’t sit idle.
During the mid ’90s when mobile phones gained mass adoption, mobile networks were built through competitive auctions for exclusive spectrum licenses. At the same time, large swaths of spectrum were allocated for federal use. Today, nearly 60 percent of low- and mid-range spectrum, which can travel far with great reliability, is reserved for non-commercial use.
In 2012, when the framework for shared spectrum for the 3.5 GHz band was first proposed, the technology to implement it just didn’t exist. Since then, an entire ecosystem has sprung up with over 80 companies across every segment of the industry coming together to join the CBRS Alliance. Here at Federated Wireless we took advantage of advancements in machine learning and cloud computing to develop our Spectrum Controller, a scalable system that dynamically automates connectivity to the 3.5 GHz spectrum band so that it can be securely shared for both commercial and federal use.
Since taking on the challenge of developing a solution to open up access to 3.5 GHz over five years ago, it’s exciting to know that we’ll see spectrum sharing come to market this year. And, over the next five years, we expect to see spectrum sharing rolled out to several more bands both in the United States and globally, inevitably expanding to support 5G technologies.
Software-defined solutions are enabling new possibilities for how spectrum is used and shared, allowing greater efficiency in how we manage what’s available. It’s a safe bet: shared spectrum is the future of wireless connectivity.
To learn more about how shared spectrum opens the door to a new era of innovation, how we got to this point and where it’s all heading, check out my recent article for IEEE Spectrum: “Bringing the Sharing Economy to the Airwaves Will Boost Your Bandwidth.”