National Regulators are faced with the impossible task of promoting competition and innovation in a sector with finite and valuable resources and often conflicting drivers of security and openness; compliance and freedom. At the same time, demand is experiencing explosive growth due to IoT and connected devices, which is further complicated by the growing need and national policies for spectrum sharing between civilian, government, emergency services and defense agencies.
The first challenge for any national regulator is simply knowing what’s REALLY out there – who is actually using what frequencies, for what purposes, where they are and is it legal? Because if you don’t know what is out there, how can you manage it now, or plan for the future?
Auditing the entire RF spectrum, in terms of actual usage, congestion and interference, even across small geographical areas, let alone nationally has been practically impossible and most regulators, therefore, focus on ensuring the integrity of emergency frequencies and rely on the public and other agencies to report issues on other frequencies and issues with service providers like mobile operators.
Regulators are often trapped in an impossible situation because, on the one hand, managing and monitoring spectrum usage and compliance is precisely what their respective Government set them up to do. On the other hand, the manpower, costs and complexity of auditing and managing spectrum properly, to baseline the frequencies and then ensure continued compliance, are simply prohibitive.
Keeping the spectrum managed, monitored, clear and uncongested for all legal users as new technologies, services and products consume ever-greater bandwidth is a growing and ongoing challenge for National regulators. New policies, re-allocation of frequencies, new services and change of use all require relevant legislation to be shaped and personnel to enforce it.
Moreover, organizations that pay for access to frequencies and other stakeholders rightly expect rapid responses to investigate, remediate and/or prosecute sources of accidental or deliberate spectrum misuse.
However, telecoms operators only have equipment capable of performing diagnostics on their own networks and frequencies, so if interference and harmonics are coming from other frequency ranges, they are unlikely to be able to identify, diagnose or locate these – and, in reality, it’s not their job to identify that someone else is disrupting their business and damaging their reputation and report it to the Regulator.
Telecommunication Operators are constantly challenged to maintain their service level agreements to customers, while keeping pace with skyrocketing user demand by investing $billions in new infrastructure to make spectrum assets available to their customers and they have a right to expect that frequency range to be clean and clear—making the Regulator’s optimization role absolutely critical.