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Spectrum Usage by Smart Radio Technology

Dynamic Spectrum Access is a novel approach that uses new radio technology within a specially-designed regulatory framework to allow spectrum to be shared efficiently, moving away from fixed allocations to a more flexible and dynamic arrangement.

A key component will be software radio and its derivatives, collectively known as smart or cognitive radio. These radio technologies use several techniques to change to different radio frequencies, adjust power levels, and change waveforms, and are able to detect other users of the spectrum to avoid interference.

"Spectrum, especially in the UHF band, is attractive to mobile operators for mobile TV, voice and high-speed data services," says ABI Research analyst Ian Cox.

"It is also used by terrestrial TV broadcasters, the military, and security services, and they all want more of it. Regulators, over the years, have boxed themselves into a corner by allocating it exclusively for individual applications. This can now begin to change as software radio emerges and spectrum sharing becomes feasible."

The main benefit of Dynamic Spectrum Access will be to improve spectrum utilization, which today is at best less than 17 percent in urban areas and 5 percent elsewhere. From spectrum sharing also flows the additional benefit that spectrum becomes cheaper to use, which will stimulate the development of new services and applications that would otherwise be uneconomical.

Applications include sharing UHF spectrum between terrestrial TV and mobile networks, and allowing UHF spectrum -- currently dedicated to 2G mobile services -- to be used by other technologies including 3G and WiMAX. All these wireless technologies could eventually come under a management regime that replaces fixed allocation of radio spectrum with real-time traded spectrum.

Software Radio, Software Defined Radio, and Cognitive Radio are enablers for DSA. Alternative approaches using other technologies could also emerge.

ABI Research has called these "Intermediate Radio Technologies." They may be able to deliver enough flexibility to share spectrum in real time much sooner than the arrival of Cognitive Radio. A level of urgency is welcome, because regulators and operators need to make better use of spectrum resources.

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