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Advocates of Dynamic Spectrum Sharing Tout its Role in Helping Close the Digital Divide

Emily McPhie

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WASHINGTON, July 2, 2019 — Allocating more radio-frequency spectrum to smaller providers will make the most difference in helping America to close the digital divide, said speakers at last week’s summit of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance.

The summit brought together policymakers, regulators, academia, and private sector leaders to discuss the concept of “dynamic sharing” of spectrum.

C-Spire Technology Strategist Ivy Kelly emphasized the role that such spectrum allocation would play in closing the broadband gap.

Wisper Internet CEO Nathan Stooke added that policymakers need to understand that fixed wireless is a real solution. Although big cell service providers often say they need to be sold more spectrum, over 70 percent of all cellular traffic occurs over Wi-Fi.

Fixed wireless operators provide service to almost four million subscribers, Stooke said. Making policies that are favorable towards small operators will ensure quick deployment.

Enabling dynamic spectrum sharing is key to closing the digital divide, said DSA President Martha Suárez, pointing out that while other technologies will be required, they aren’t enough.

Spectrum sharing enables radio communications devices to opportunistically transmit over available radio spectrum, making sure that consumers have consistent access to wireless bandwidth.

This available spectrum often consists of TV white spaces, which are unused or unassigned frequencies in television broadcast bands. Not all channels are used for broadcasting in every given market, creating white spaces that can be used for other purposes.

Utilizing TV white space is a “cheap and easy” solution, said Tim Genders, COO of Project Isizwe. Stooke agreed, saying that it could be an effective alternative to wireless and fiber.

Dynamic spectrum sharing provides a third option in addition to unlicensed and licensed spectrum, said Suárez. If implemented correctly, it will protect incumbents while maximizing broadband capacity and coverage for consumers.

According to the DSA, dynamic spectrum sharing will lower barriers to market entry and help solve the problem of a spectrum shortage. Spectrum sharing technologies are already well-tested and ready to deploy, so the main barrier to widespread implementation is legislative.

The most helpful thing that policymakers can do is to open up more spectrum in the 6 GigaHertz band, Suárez said. The band’s wider channels would make it advantage for broadband delivery.

(Photo of panel at DSA Global Summit by Emily McPhie.)

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