May 29, 2012

How Spectrum Sharing Would Work

Brian X. Chen, writing for The New York Times' Bits Blog:

"the military might have radio spectrum it uses for communicating at a bombing test range, but when that test range is not in use, a smartphone would be able to pluck a signal from that spectrum. Ideally, if the military needed to use the test range, it would gain priority over commercial users, Mr. Crowley said.

In order for something like this to work, the government would need to use a centralized system to scan the radio waves and be aware of the spectrum environment. This system would be able to find which frequencies are available and choose the best one for a mobile device to make a connection.

Mobile devices themselves can also be equipped with special sensing circuitry to detect what frequencies other cellphones are using, and to choose a frequency that is less crowded, he said."

Imagine a new class of wireless phones, 4G+ devices and fixed-base radios that all cooperate to use the available spectrum. Your device grabs whatever frequencies are available at the moment, the fixed cell tower handshakes and you're off and running.

A priority user, signaling need for greater spectrum use, can grab frequency space as phones and other users swap out to lower-priority channels. And it all happens invisibly, without user intervention.