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Unlicensed Spectrum: Future Regulation

Prof. William Webb, Head of Research and Development, Ofcom

Date: Friday, October 30

Time: 2:00 - 2:20 PM

Location: Transformatorhuis

The unlicensed spectrum bands, particularly at 2.4GHz, started off as "junk bands" where licenses could not be awarded because the interference from other sources was too great. At first applications in these bands were relatively low in value, based on avoiding home wiring and similar. But over time WiFi has evolved to become a core part of our communications infrastructure and the basis for many new ways of working. With this success has come the possibility of congestion at just the time when WiFi is being seen as one of the key ways to alleviate congestion in the cellular bands.

There are many possible solutions. Additional spectrum is available at 5GHz but little used, perhaps because signals propagate less far. The 2.4GHz spectrum could be more rigorously managed but this might inhibit future innovation. Femtocells could off-load cellular traffic but have their own problems. Some see cognitive, or "white space" usage as the panacea but this is still evolving and its final role is unclear.

This presentation will consider these issues and ask what role the regulator should play in managing unlicensed spectrum in the future.

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