Ofcom report: Highlighting the spectrum issue

In recent weeks, Ofcom revealed that the demand for spectrum is expected to increase by as much as 31 times by 2020 in Western Europe.

Since most spectrum is already occupied – as a result of the growing smartphone up-take and the use of data-heavy applications, and because services such as TV and radio broadcasting, wireless internet, air traffic control and emergency services make use of spectrum – there are growing concerns that there will be limited spectrum available to grow and develop next-generation services, such as 5G, connected cars, smart metres and satellites, and to ensure public safety.

Spectrum has become a necessity in our daily lives; it is used to keep us connected to our friends and family on our smartphones, and it plays a critical role in public safety communications, as it’s used by our emergency service departments.

However, spectrum has become extremely scarce and, for operators, this is worrying, not least because it has become either impossible or too costly for them to acquire additional spectrum. The EU recently announced plans for TV broadcasters to relinquish their 700MHz spectrum, which is certainly a good start. However, in such a competitive market, operators need to look at new ways of making use of existing spectrum - not only to plan ahead for services such as 5G, but to keep one step ahead of their rivals.

If the UK is going to explore and develop next-generation services, as well as ensure public safety, spectrum must be managed more efficiently. By using small cell architecture, such as wideband distributed antenna systems (DAS), operators can make the most of their spectrum by densifying their networks and creating efficient macro network underlays to address under-served areas. 

To put it simply, operators can direct capacity to wherever it’s needed the most. With growing trends such as machine-to-machine communications and the Internet of Things rising, the demand for spectrum will increase exponentially over the next four years.

Operators must embrace technologies that allow them to provide the coverage and capacity required for next-generation services – and, most importantly, for our emergency services.

John Spindler, VP marketing and product management, Zinwave

Image source: Flickr/Andy Budd