This policy paper provides an overview of the state-of-the-art technology and standards that would allow alternative spectrum licensing, as well as certain limitations – both from a technological and a policy perspective.
Spectrum measurements undertaken for this study provide evidence that certain frequency bands are unused, particularly in rural areas, and could easily be assigned to alternative service providers. In addition to technical measurements, a range of stakeholders have provided input for this study. These include technology experts, researchers, community networks practitioners, representatives from regulatory agencies and policy makers. Arising from this, directions for future work on advocating for changes in the regulatory environment on spectrum licensing are provided.
One argument for new policies on spectrum licensing comes from the success of community networks in providing broadband access. Community wireless networks are locally owned and operated networks, usually relying on alternative low-cost technologies and open-source solutions. They are being increasingly deployed to provide connectivity in remote rural areas that lack coverage or in areas covered by commercial operators where services are not affordable. However, the success of such networks is often hindered by expensive national exclusive spectrum licences, as well as the high, opaque and sometimes discriminatory wholesale network access pricing offered by incumbent mobile network operators. Considering that there is evidence that large portions of assigned spectrum bands remain unused, especially in rural areas, the success of community networks in providing broadband access is making a strong case for new alternative policies and regulation on
Hadzic, Senka. A Global South Perspective on Alternative Spectrum Policy. Policy Brief, 1, Research ICT Africa, Dec. 2019, https://researchictafrica.net/2019/12/18/a-global-south-perspective-on-alternative-spectrum-policy/.