Looking back at 2021, and my two years as DSA President

Since joining the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance over 2 years ago, I have witnessed the spectrum sharing landscape change in revolutionary ways. This year has been particularly progressive, with crucial spectrum being made available for unlicensed access, more flexible spectrum frameworks being adopted by regulators worldwide, and leaps being made towards bridging the digital divide.

Of course, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continued to create unprecedented challenges for people everywhere. Never has internet access been so important for the continuation of normal life, whether that means working from home, staying informed with critical news updates, or communicating with our family and friends. This tumultuous time has shown why the efforts of alliances like the DSA continue to be so important for our modern, digital society.

Coming together to deliberate spectrum sharing  

This year, the DSA held its second virtual global summit, welcoming speakers from authorities in Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Mexico and more. Sessions explored topics from regulatory updates to the economic benefits of flexible spectrum sharing networks, all available on demand.

The 2021 Summit saw some of the highest participant and broadest attendee demographics of any DSA Summit, with 571 attendees from across the globe. A breakdown of the attendees showed that about 26% of them are from North America, 27% from Central, South America and the Caribbean, 14% from Europe, 22% from Africa, 6% from Asia Pacific and 5% from Middle East. 42% of the participants were Government delegates, 47% industry attendees and 11% represented academia, civil society, not for profit and press. International Telecommunications Union and regional spectrum groups kindly accepted our invitation and shared their vision on the challenges on spectrum management and the importance of enabling new technologies. It is the sharing of visions and best practices from spectrum experts that hold the key to the summit’s success.

Worldwide success for 6 GHz

As unlicensed access to the 6 GHz band continues to be a core focus for the DSA, it is important to reflect on the successes of efforts in this area so far. With countries across the Americas, Europe, and Asia now allowing access to the 6 GHz band – opportunities are increasing to attend the growing traffic demand, enable new innovative technologies such Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, holographic or haptic systems, and to provide the accessible and affordable conditions for broadband access and digital inclusion worldwide.

Over the course of 2021, the DSA filed more than 70 submissions to regulators and authorities, in its efforts to influence and encourage efficient use of spectrum. As well as encouraging resourceful use of the 6 GHz band, these filings cover areas like the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, mid band spectrum in different segments from 3.1 to 4.2 GHz, TV White Spaces and spectrum management plans and strategies of global regulators and authorities.

Last year, 4 countries adopted unlicensed access to the 6 GHz band – USA, UK, Republic of Korea, and Chile. This year, we have congratulated countries like Brazil and Saudi Arabia for similar efforts opening the entire band, and we are excited to see a momentum with final decisions about the band in more than 40 countries.

Empowering spectrum sharing efforts

The most effective way to advocate for efficient use of spectrum, is to show the innumerable possibilities that can be made a reality. Through studies with partners like ASSIA, Policy Impact Partners, and Telecom Advisory Services, the DSA has produced several reports over the last 2 years which illustrate the economic and social impacts of spectrum sharing. This year alone, the DSA produced nine reports and studies with partners.

Global economies such as Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, South Africa, Indonesia, Kenya and Nigeria have been shown to benefit from billions of dollars in multiple studies with Telecom Advisory services. By allowing unlicensed access to the 6 GHz band, the reports assessed the impact on service quality, coverage, affordability and the impact on different applications and use cases.

Whitepapers produced in partnership with Policy Impact Partners show how connectivity can be enhanced through spectrum sharing, and how the full potential of 6 GHz can be realized. At such a pivotal time for the future of Wi-Fi, these reports highlight the urgent need to open the 6 GHz band on a licence-exempt basis.

One of the most recent studies, produced in partnership with Apple, Broadcom, CISCO, Facebook, Google, HPE, Intel, Microsoft and Qualcomm, states that opening the full 6 GHz band to license-exempt Radio Local Area Network (RLAN) technologies is the best public policy choice for regulators globally. As more countries open the 6 GHz band for unlicenced access, we must continue to urge governments to support innovative use cases with the full 1200 MHz.

A look at what’s to come

Over the next 2 years, I hope to congratulate more and more governments on opening the full 6 GHz band for unlicensed access and enabling mid-band spectrum sharing innovative frameworks inspired by tiered spectrum sharing models like CBRS. I hope to see them adopting technologies like TVWS for affordable rural connectivity and on adopting modern spectrum management tools like automated frequency coordination. All of these specific decisions will have a huge impact on the ICT ecosystem, allowing different stakeholders to deploy gigabit class networks, edging closer to the ultimate goal of connecting the remaining 40% of our population.

Collaborations are key, and in that sense, DSA will also continue its engagement on working closely at the international level with different regional groups like the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL) in the Americas, the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) in Africa, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) and others. Furthermore, we hope to continue the fruitful partnership with the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office under the Digital Access Programme that is taking very important steps towards digital inclusion in Brazil, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. We are encouraging a new spectrum mindset in these regions, to catalyse affordable internet connectivity and support the inclusive growth of the digital ecosystem.