Logo: Communications Daily

World Regulator Summit Endorses Unlicensed Spectrum

by Howard Buskirk
Communications Daily, Volume 24, Number 239 (14 December 2004), page 2
© 2004 by Warren Communications News. All rights reserved.
Posted online by the Open Spectrum Foundation with publisher's permission.

Last week's ITU Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) in Geneva provided international support for greater use worldwide of "unlicensed" spectrum such as Wi-Fi -- a spectrum concept that is increasingly significant in U.S. regulation, officials said. The regulators also endorsed technological neutrality for the Internet, with neither wireline nor wireless receiving an advantage.

[FCC Commissioner Kathleen] Abernathy, who chaired the ITU meeting, told us Mon. she was encouraged that the regulators from around the world had agreed to "a best practices" document for broadband deployment (CD Dec 13 p6) with no dissent: "It was amazing to me that we had 54 national authorities and we didn't have a single one who felt the need to express any reservations."

In a potentially significant development, the regulators endorsed language that encourages regulators to "allocate adequate spectrum to facilitate the use of modern, cost effective broadband radiocommunications technologies." The regulators encouraged "innovative approaches to managing the spectrum resource such as the ability to share spectrum or allocating on a license-exempt non-interference basis," or unlicensed spectrum. Unlicensed spectrum is an increasingly important concept in U.S. wireless regulation, but has faced some international opposition.

The regulators also endorsed technological neutrality, including neutrality between wireline and wireless. "We encourage regulators to adopt policies that are technology neutral and do not favor one technology over another," the regulators recommended.

Abernathy, who has attended 2 other GSRs, said views on unlicensed spectrum were changing. "A number of the countries are starting to have a very real appreciation for both licensed and unlicensed spectrum," Abernathy said: "There's a new appreciation that unlicensed doesn't mean unregulated. A number of countries that have been pursuing this emphasized that you just get more bang for your buck."

Several of the regulators indicated they would explore greater use of unlicensed spectrum, Abernathy said. "Numerous countries decided to go back and look into it further," she said. "For example, you may love unlicensed, but you may go back and check and your statute may not allow" greater use of unlicensed spectrum.

Abernathy also said the global consensus reflects a recognition that broadband deployment will be critically important for people in all countries, developed or developing. Abernathy also said that message should be encouraging to high tech companies. "I was surprised at the degree of consistency across all countries, regardless of the geography or the politics or whether you are developed or developing," she said: "We are facing the same challenges."

Abernathy said GSR received an initial report on spam, but the next meeting, Oct. 2005 in Tunis, will look closer at that topic. Spam is a significant issue in the developing world where many have limited access to computers and must pay for access to their e-mail. The summit was the first chaired by a U.S. regulator.

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