Because of need for higher capacities, the trend toward shorter link distances for mobile backhaul and declining product costs, 70/80GHz (i.e., E-band) solutions are gathering significant interest for mobile backhaul and enterprise access applications. However, because these frequencies are new to most people, there is little understanding of costs and other issues related to licensing the 70-80GHz spectrum.
In response to the ever-growing demand for spectrum to satisfy the increase in usage of data hungry mobile applications and in line with recently published ECC recommendations, ComReg (i.e., Ireland’s telecom regulator) issued a consultation document looking at the future demands on spectrum for point-to-point fixed links. September saw the publication of the conclusions and subsequent decisions arising from that consultation, to which Aviat Networks was the only manufacturer to respond. This blog highlights some of those decisions:
One of the major topics was the requirement for more spectrum allocated for point-to-point usage. Consequently, ComReg has made the following announcements:
Aviat Networks supported this initiative during the consultation process and is pleased to see ComReg make these announcements as a move to satisfy the increasing demand for microwave spectrum. Specifically, frequencies in the range of 28 to 42 GHz are ideal for short-haul urban links, and we expect the decision by ComReg to stimulate further growth of microwave for fixed line and mobile network applications.
ComReg signalled its intention to potentially reopen the 26 GHz block license scheme for a further round of National Block assignments, subject to market demand. In the past, Aviat Networks commented that it believes block licensing is not the most appropriate method of licensing in the microwave bands. However, ComReg disagrees with that view.
The combined expansion in spectrum use—new bands and larger channel allocations—underlines the popularity and ongoing viability of microwave as an alternative to fiber in urban networks experiencing rapid traffic growth and geographic expansion.
Aviat Networks welcomes the ComReg announcement. We already address all the band/channel assignments made by ComReg.
Recently the U.S. Congress requested information from the FCC regarding the usage of the 11, 18 and 23GHz microwave point to point bands. This move is seen by many industry watchers as the first step in preparing these bands for auctioning.
Auctioning spectrum is seen by many in the political establishment as a good way of raising large sums of money. The 3G auctions in Europe raised $30 billion in the U.K. and $45 billion in Germany and although these figures will probably never be reached again, the attraction for governments trying to balance the books in an economic downturn is clear to see. However, these figures were for cellular access spectrum and there is evidence of microwave spectrum auctions being priced too high for operators and no bids being received, e.g. the original 28GHz auction in the U.K during 2000-2002. But even if the bidding process itself is successful, is granting large amounts of spectrum to a single operator the right way to allocate microwave spectrum?
Let’s look a little deeper into how microwave spectrum is used and allocated in most cases today in licensed common carrier frequency bands. An operator wanting to install a microwave link between points A and B would seek to obtain an individual license for that link in that specific location and frequency. This allows others to apply for other frequencies or even the same frequency in different locations. This approach maximizes use of the available spectrum.
Now let’s look at the block licensing approach. Here a block of spectrum (either on a national or regional basis) is allocated to one user. Block allocations on a regional basis make sense for multipoint applications like fixed wireless access or mobile network applications. However, in the case of point to point (PTP) allocation a block license holder may not have requirements for that entire spectrum, but because it is now their spectrum, no one else can gain access, often resulting in under utilization. This is the situation currently with the 38GHz band in the U.S. and is leading to some in the industry to push for the availability of additional spectrum.
Another example of this is the 28GHz LMDS band, where service take up has been very low, but has effectively blocked out this band from other uses/users. Another concern for the block licensing approach and one that affects equipment vendors is that with fewer operators there are fewer equipment contracts thus leading some manufacturers to be “frozen” out of the market. This will ultimately reduce choice for all and reduce innovation and competition.
Referring back to the announcement, it makes no mention of what would happen to the holders of existing link licenses who will have engineered their networks based upon the current rules. What would happen to these links should that band now be auctioned off as a block? Spectrum auctions also break the U.S. into many smaller regions, with each regional block license being auctioned to the highest bidder. This leads to the question of demarcation and coordination between adjacent regions, particularly for links that may need cross-regional boundaries.
All in all, it would appear that based on evidence to date, auctioning FCC Common Carrier microwave spectrum will be tremendously complicated and likely not in the long term interests of the industry.