An introduction to wireless spectrum regulation

Farpoint Group |  Mobile & Wireless

What's more, each country sets its own rules for spectrum regulation. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission is the regulator of civilian use of the spectrum, with most of the work being done by the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. Spectrum for federal government activities is managed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The most influential organization in Europe is the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, and the European nations try to have similar regulations given their geographic proximity. But, and this is universally true around the world, spectrum regulation is complex and considered a national right, so nations are rarely in complete agreement with one another (on this and most other questions as well!).

But because radio waves can easily travel across national borders, it's important to have a forum for ironing out spectrum allocations and regulations that affect more than individual countries. The International Telecommunications Union, part of the United Nations, sponsors the World Radio Communication Conference every few years to work on emerging long-distance technologies and balancing the needs of growing economies against the more established. Access to spectrum is obviously critical to economic development and to competitiveness in a global economy.

Oddly, then, spectrum regulation isn't really about technology at all. It's really about politics, economics, and making far-reaching guesses about which services to devote spectrum to. Fortunately, the trend in recent years, on a global basis, has been to allocate more spectrum for those activities that provide greater capabilities in mobile voice and data communications - just the sort of services you and I need. And despite warnings of a "spectrum shortage", there's really no such problem on the horizon. Thanks to basic improvements in radio and antenna technology, and more efficient component and system architectures, there's plenty of spectrum to go around - and a lot more that we can do with it.

Copyright 2003 by Farpoint Group - All rights reserved.

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