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ITS Spectrum Efficiency Report Examines the Past, Looks to the Future for New Solutions

March 05, 2018 by Keith Gremban, Director of the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences

Every new innovation in connected devices promises exciting possibilities for the future, but it also means greater demand for spectrum, a critical and limited resource used both by the public and private sectors. 

NTIA is committed to ensuring that the government’s use of this valuable resource is as efficient and effective as possible. But what does it mean to be an efficient user of spectrum? And how can future systems make better use of spectrum? NTIA’s research laboratory, the Institute for Telecommunications Sciences (ITS), digs into these questions in a new report providing a thorough survey of the history of spectrum efficiency. ITS reviewed more than 50 years of studies examining domestic and international spectrum efficiency to hone insights for future research.

The report found broad consensus on fundamental spectrum efficiency metrics, which consider increasing productive spectrum use and reducing spectrum blocking.  Studies also agreed that spectrum efficiency metrics are most appropriate for comparing similar spectrum dependent systems or for optimizing the deployment of similar systems within a frequency band. 

Based on the research, ITS makes a number of recommendations addressing spectrum sharing, and suggestions for how best to focus future spectrum efficiency studies to enable the United States to maximize spectrum opportunities.

The importance of spectrum efficiency will only grow more important as spectrum sharing increases and network operators look to utilize ultra-dense networks to build capacity. This year’s International Symposium on Advanced Radio Technologies (ISART) will explore the technical, economic and regulatory challenges associated with network densification – the practice of adding cell sites to increase network capacity.

While ultra-dense networks can provide additional capacity, there are challenges around making sure propagations models – which predict how signals travel – can be scaled accurately to accommodate a wide variety of environments and conditions. ISART 2018 will bring together leading experts from government, academia, and industry to explore these issues and map the path forward to the next generation of foundational propagation models.