Challenges and Choices of Spectrum Sharing

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Dec. 5, 2018 – The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy (CSPS) explores radio frequency (RF) spectrum sharing issues in a new policy paper released today, Good Neighbors: How and When to Share Spectrum.

“The world is demanding greater access to WiFi, 5G networks, smart grids, connected vehicles, satellite communications and more, but the frequency space for that connectivity is getting hard to come by,” explained Dr. Matthew Clark, the paper’s author. “With air traffic control, defense, GPS, weather forecasting and telecommunications systems already using existing RF ranges, the growth of wireless connectivity depends on sharing spectrum through sound policies and practices.”

The White House released a memorandum on October 25 calling for the creation of a national spectrum strategy and highlighting spectrum sharing as key to a sustainable wireless environment. Such strategies need to account for both the technical and policy strengths and limitations of available spectrum sharing options, according to the CSPS paper.

“Sustainable spectrum use is not a one-size-fits-all proposition but a blend of methods for a variety of needs,” said Clark, “and the goal of spectrum sharing systems isn’t simply to avoid interference by accounting for every possible sharing scenario but to provide practical services.” As an alternative to countless and costly case-specific studies, Clark suggests establishing interference thresholds for new spectrum users to meet, assuring existing users of continued operation.

The CSPS paper identifies the security, privacy and enforcement challenges inherent in a sharing-based system, as well as the difficulty in assessing the value of spectrum sharing for new services. That difficulty aside, the paper also illustrates the value of policies that facilitate spectrum access, including an analysis of the success of the 2015 Federal Communications Commission spectrum auction that raised $41 billion from cellular operators.

“When the U.S. government began regulating spectrum with the passage of the Radio Act of 1912, few could have imagined the stakes, opportunities and complexities before us now,” said Dr. Jamie Morin, vice president and executive director of the CSPS. “This study offers an understanding of both the spectrum policy path the nation has taken and the choices ahead if we are to create a flourishing future for wireless connectivity.”

To learn more, download Good Neighbors: How and When to Share Spectrum at

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