DSA 2019 Global Summit

The Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA) will hold its Seventh Annual Global Summit in Washington D.C. on 27 June 2019, and this will be my first time attending a DSA Global Summit as its President. Continuing the work of the DSA around the rest of the year, the Global Summit will bring together people from across the industry to discuss and debate spectrum sharing methods and models, with a focus on the future and how dynamic spectrum sharing can be utilised effectively.

With representatives from across the industry, including the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), regulators, policy makers and academia, we have put together the DSA Global Summit agenda to explore new developments in the spectrum industry. It is an exciting time for spectrum sharing, with recent progress including the bidding for spectrum earmarked for 5G, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposed rulemaking on the 6 GHz band, the Mid-band sharing opportunities with CBRS and beyond, the deployment of TV White Space (TVWS) technology and hybrid fix wireless networks for rural connectivity and the unlicensed possibilities at the milli-metre waves. Using these developments and use cases, speakers at the DSA Global Summit will explore future advances utilising dynamic spectrum methods and mechanisms, like databases.

The 2019 DSA Global Summit is in its seventh year, following many successful previous events. The 2018 DSA Global Summit brought together representatives from 22 different regulatory bodies around the world and had a particular focus on challenges that was facing shared spectrum at the time. The outcome of the 2018 event has shaped the way the DSA has approached shared spectrum developments throughout the past year and has allowed us to target specific areas for further work that will be explored in this year’s agenda.

Opening the Global Summit, speakers will join the first panel ‘6 GHz –Shared Spectrum to Enable Next Gen Wi-Fi and Other Technologies Leveraging Non-Exclusive Unlicensed Spectrum Access’. Following recent FCC rulings, the DSA has continued to show its support for the unlicensed use of the 6GHz band. As surmised in the DSA reply comments to these rulings, the 6 GHz band presents a golden opportunity to increase the use of the band, address increasing demand form unlicensed spectrum and protect incumbents.

Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) is an alternative technology supported by the DSA that is seeing a rise in popularity and discussion around the world. CBRS provides the opportunity to share the 3.5 GHz band, and it has recently been announced that a 5G-specific sharing standard is under development with 5G services planned to commence on the band in 2020. The panel ‘3.5-3.7 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) Roll-outs: Use Cases and Marketplace Opportunities’ will further delve into these discussions.

Beyond CBRS, there are many ways in which a three tier spectrum licensing framework can be utilised to protect incumbent services, provide the regulatory assurance necessary to attract investment in new technologies and applications and support innovation. Six industry experts will explore this spectrum sharing method on the panel ‘3.7 – 4.2 GHz – Application of Three Tier Spectrum Sharing Beyond CBRS’.

Many countries have taken the next step in the evolution of spectrum policy, through the license-exempt use of TVWS. On a panel dedicated to TVWS, speakers will explore the wide range of applications of TVWS that are particularly useful for providing internet access in rural locations, as these radio waves can travel further and are able to penetrate walls and other obstructions more easily.

The final panel of the DSA Global Summit will explore ‘The Use of Hybrid Fixed Wireless Networks to Close the Digital Divide in Unserved Communities’. The DSA continues to work hard to close the digital divide, primarily through engaging with regulators and government officials to promote and adopt suitable frameworks that will facilitate dynamic access to radio spectrum.

I am honoured to lead the DSA in their ongoing work towards dynamic spectrum access around the world. The DSA Global Summit is truly a platform for the industry to come together and collaborate to encourage progress and development, and the DSA is proud to be a host of this opportunity.

The DSA Global Summit full agenda and further details can be found here.

Spectrum sharing is a reality and an opportunity!

Following my appointment as DSA President at the beginning of May, this month has been about networking, meeting DSA members and getting to know the people who I will work with to achieve the DSA’s long-term goals of worldwide affordable connectivity.

Earlier this month, I attended Wi-Fi NOW USA and the FCBA Annual Seminar to discuss and debate dynamic spectrum management and the ways in which this can connect the unconnected around the world.

On the final day of Wi-Fi NOW USA, I joined Paul Garnett (Senior Director, Airband Initiative, Microsoft and Chairman of the DSA Board), Dudu Mkhwanazi (CEO, Project Isizwe) and Chris Marra (Product Manager, Facebook) for the Q&A panel ‘Building affordable connectivity with Wi-Fi & unlicensed radio – the road ahead’.

The Q&A panel prompted interesting discussions about what the industry can be doing to provide affordable connectivity around the world, especially for the 3.5 billion people who are still not connected to the internet. It was agreed that it is not only about connecting people, it is about all the opportunities that technology brings such as access to education, healthcare or improved agriculture.

The DSA is completely engaged to face this challenge and has already done so in the past, from hosting workshops in Ghana and Nigeria to promote TV White Space (TVWS), to providing a platform for the industry to come together, as we plan to do at the 2019 DSA Global Summit. All efforts to connect people are welcomed by the DSA, and dynamic access is an additional option to provide affordable access.

As an increasing amount of visionary companies – already shown by the DSA members Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Amazon and many more – begin to employ unlicensed bands and Wi-Fi to deliver affordable connectivity around the world, it is important to maintain the discussion about how to continue this trend. The Wi-Fi NOW USA event highlighted to me that this industry is continuing to evolve and is always rising to and meeting new standards.

I also participated in the FCBA Annual Seminar, held in Hot Springs, Virginia. Speaking on the panel ‘Meet Me in the Mid-band: A Spectrum of Perspectives’, I joined David Don (Comcast), Claude Aiken (WISPA), Michele Farquhar (Hogan Lovells) in a great discussion moderated by Megan Stull (Google) and Erin Griffith (Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP).

The panel focused on different CBRS perspectives, the potential of the 3450 MHz – 3550 MHz band, the latest information about C-Band, new opportunities for Spectrum sharing at 5.9 GHz and Wi-Fi 6 at the 6 GHz band.

Both the Wi-Fi NOW USA event and FCBA Seminar were great opportunities to network with industry leaders and to meet some DSA members for the first time. Continued dynamic spectrum management is crucial for realizing worldwide affordable connectivity and the way to achieve this is by encouraging the industry as a whole to see spectrum sharing as an opportunity rather than a competition.

Registration for the DSA Global Summit is open now and the full agenda is available on the website: http://dynamicspectrumalliance.org/global-summit/.

Unveiling New Spectrum Sharing Findings

To mark the launch of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance’s (DSA’s) new policy research report, Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC): An Established Tool for Modern Spectrum Management, we held a workshop on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C to launch the report and to discuss its key findings.

Co-sponsored by the Congressional Spectrum Caucus, the event brought together United States Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA), Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Jessica Rosenworcel and industry leaders from around the world.

The launch of the report marks an important step forward, not only for the DSA but for everyone with a vested interest in maximising the potential of spectrum. The report found that AFC systems are the key to unlocking unused spectrum capacity by automatically searching databases for which radio frequencies are available for wireless devices to use at a given location and time.

With regulators under increasing pressure to adapt spectrum policy meet wireless connectivity demands, the use of AFC has never been more important. There has never been a better time for regulators to leverage AFC as a tool for fuelling gigabit-fast broadband networks and closing the digital divide that exists in far too many communities around the world.

The event was opened by Representative Doris Matsui, a founding member of the Congressional Spectrum Caucus. Bringing experience and insight, Representative Matsui emphasized the need for automated frequency modulation and efficient uses of the spectrum as well as touching on the challenges of deploying networks.

Other presentations included a ‘Fireside Chat’ with FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mike O’Rielly, moderated by Kalpak Gude. The Commissioners discussed how dynamic spectrum access technologies and policies help regulators achieve key policy challenges.

We were thrilled to have Michael Calabrese, Director of the Wireless Future Project at New America Foundation, present the findings of recent DSA research. Mr Calabrese presented the findings on shared spectrum as well as giving a demonstration on how Automated Spectrum Access, a hot topic at the workshop, is already in use within the CBRS band (3.5 GHz).

The workshop was an overwhelming success and it was great to welcome so many key industry bodies and leaders to Capitol Hill to discuss spectrum sharing and the use of databases to coordinate spectrum.

The AFC report reviews a number of emerging technological advances that can further improve the benefits provided by AFC, including the addition of more detailed GIS data and use of real-time spectrum sensing data. The DSA members are looking forward to doing our part in facilitating the global integration of AFC to maximise spectrum management for the digital era.

Spectrum sharing in Colombia

MarthaSpectrum sharing has had a huge positive impact on society and the economy in Colombia. It has created a virtuous ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship in which the possibility to access spectrum for free and without a license, or be able to use the spectrum under certain regulatory framework at very low prices, has made viable new business models and created new ways to exchange products and services.

The most visible example of these virtuous ecosystems have been the bands that have been allocated for the use of Wi-Fi networks. The national spectrum agency has been studying different mechanisms of dynamic and sharing of spectrum to promote innovation, support the growth of the digital economy and reduce the digital divide following what it is promoted by “Plan Vive Digital para la gente” (Colombia’s broadband national plan).

During the past year, the government of Colombia has been performing technical testing and trials of fixed broadband equipment, operating in the white spaces of the UHF band which is currently allocated for TV broadcasting; Colombia adopted the DVB-T2 standard in a 6MHz channel. The aim of these tests were to enlarge the offer of broadband solutions in remote locations of the country, where today, there is no internet connection for either fixed or mobile.

The pilot trials have found that broadband solutions operating in white spaces of the UHF band allocated for TV broadcasting could work properly without causing harmful interference to TV broadcasting receptors in remote country areas, by following certain operating conditions.

Other pilot tests have been focused on bringing connectivity to schools located in remote rural areas who have never had internet connection due the difficulties of the terrain. It’s really exciting to see how with the implementation of alternative solutions like this, it is possible to connect remote rural schools with the world, enhancing learning and enlarging the dreams of their students.

Africa’s Telecoms Infrastructure: 2015 at a Glance

The rconnect-africa_Steve Song_02162016eal impact of technological innovation is often not felt until long after market introduction – particularly in emerging markets. Take the launch of the first mobile networks in sub-Saharan Africa in 1994 for example: the impact of affordable access granted by mobile technology was not felt until more than ten years later. We are at a similar juncture today with fibre optic technology. The first high-capacity, Open Access, undersea cable to reach countries in sub-Saharan Africa was launched in July 2009 with little fanfare. Today, more than a dozen undersea cables encircle the continent offering many terabits of digital capacity. The arrival of both capacity and competition on the shores of African countries has triggered a wave of investment in terrestrial fibre optic infrastructure to the point that virtually every African nation has at least one – and many have several – fibre-optic backbone connected to those undersea cables.

While much of the investment in fibre optic infrastructure has been spurred by the need to provide better, faster and cheaper backhaul for mobile networks, it also created an enabling environment for complementary last-mile solutions – a positive side effect for all.  Previously, the cost of building a communication access network involved solving an array of expensive problems, from international backhaul, to national network access, middle and last mile challenges, as well as the diffusion and maintenance of access devices.  Now, with the advent of local availability of Open Access fibre networks in primary and secondary cities in sub-Saharan Africa, new opportunities have opened up for access providers.

This year has seen an explosion of non-mobile last-mile initiatives launched across the continent, from metropolitan WiFi networks, to TV White Space initiatives and Fibre To The Home (FTTH).  Over the past year, eleven African countries announced major WiFi access initiatives, some in urban areas and townships like Project Isizwe in South Africa and Argon Telecom in Kenya, and some nationwide initiatives, such as in Mauritius and the Seychelles.

Newer access technologies like TV White Spaces also saw growth in 2015 with new pilots in Mozambique, Botswana, Mauritius, and Morocco. But perhaps the most interesting news was from Mawingu, a Kenyan TV White Space startup that began as a pilot in 2013, but last year, announced that it was negotiating a loan of four million dollars from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to expand its network.

Finally, Fibre To The Home (FTTH) also took off in 2015, with six African countries announcing FTTH initiatives.  South Africa stands out with multiple FTTH initiatives ranging from community-led projects such as Parkhurst in Johannesburg to business roll-outs from all the major operators.

All of this is great news for the evolution of affordable access as fibre networks open up the market for both technological and business-model innovation in the last mile.  A more comprehensive review of African telecommunications infrastructure developments in 2015 can be found at https://manypossibilities.net/2016/01/africa-telecoms-infrastructure-in-2015/

Digital Divide and Unlicensed Spectrum

This Thought Leadership contribution is co-written by Prof. H Sama Nwana, Executive Director of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance and Richard Thanki of the University of Southhampton’s Institute for Complex Systems Simulation.

Google’s launch earlier this month of its first Wi-Fi network in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, is part of a rising tide of efforts to widen access to affordable high-speed Internet, especially in developing countries. It comes on the heels of Facebook’s October announcement of its own initiative to increase Internet access in Africa by using satellites.

These examples from Google and Facebook are just two of the many efforts worldwide to close the digital divide and connect the world’s “next 4 billion” people who don’t have affordable access to high-speed Internet. As these initiatives proliferate, we should remember that true competition is needed to dent the stubborn barriers of affordability and accessibility that often prevent faster connectivity growth, leaving billions out of the new digital economy. And, given the rapid global growth of both Wi-Fi and smartphone usage, we should consider the importance of unlicensed spectrum, particularly unused “TV White Spaces.”

To date, unlicensed technologies using high-frequency spectrum have been limited to short-range communications. However, access to the unused, lower-frequency TV White Spaces would unlock a range of potential applications for connecting “the next 4 billion.” The extension of Wi-Fi to TV bands would provide an alternative but complementary ecosystem to 3GPP (2G/3G/4G/5G) for bridging the digital divide, stimulating the competition needed for success.

A track record of innovative solutions

In the early 1990s, the United States’ Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allowed the Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) spectrum bands to be used for communications on an unlicensed basis. Since then, these unlicensed bands encouraged remarkable collaboration and competition, between large established companies and small start-ups, leading to the emergence of a multiplicity of wireless protocols, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ZigBee.

These technologies have had a revolutionary impact, including nearly ubiquitous Wi-Fi, sensory and automation networks in homes and industry and medical implants with wireless communications. The lack of cumbersome and bureaucratic licensing requirements enables innovators to bring their products to market without the need to secure permission, and the range of applications of unlicensed wireless technology continues to grow.

Future potential

However, access to the unused TV White Spaces (TVWS) has the potential to extend the unlicensed revolution to long-range uses. TVWS regulations enable technologies that can play a critical role in extending Internet access to the billions still unconnected in the world’s rural areas. Already rural users are being connected in a large number of countries, including the United States, Kenya, and the Philippines. Another key use of TVWS-enabled technology will be in the area of wide-area sensor networks designed to monitor floods, pollution and the poaching of endangered animals over vast areas. In cities, we will see the use of TVWS to control traffic, monitor infrastructure and read utility meters. In homes, Wi-Fi enabled with TVWS will eliminate connectivity blackspots.

In the many TVWS-enabled broadband initiatives taking place around the world, smartphones are already being connected over TVWS, with Wi-Fi as an intermediary. However, new revisions of Wi-Fi (in the 802.11af standard) will allow smartphones direct access to this technology. There are likely to be many implications. First, a user’s home Wi-Fi network will no longer stop abruptly at their front door, instead extending into their local area. Second, the provision of Wi-Fi over large areas such as university campuses and even whole cities is likely to become easier to deploy and more ubiquitous. Smartphones that can function in remote forests and natural reserves become a distinct possibility. The increase in mobile data usage on mobile network operators’ (MNOs’) networks may be slowed by the advent of unlicensed TVWS-enabled networks (and higher frequencies WiFi in 2.4 and 5GHz), providing MNOs a chance to defer infrastructure investment. In time, MNOs are likely to be a large-scale user of TVWS, adding the technology to their GSM- and Wi-Fi-based networks of today – hence WiFi being an alternative but complementary ecosystem to 3GPP.

TV White Space in Nigeria

As the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA) advocates around the world for closing the digital divide and for more dynamic allocation of spectrum in order to alleviate the “spectrum crunch”, including non-primary access to TVWS (TV White Space), it appears Nigeria has taken heed. Spectrum is the undisputed oxygen of the wireless world. However, usage of wireless networks globally is skyrocketing and even in Africa, a country like Nigeria is…

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