Exclusion Principles and Receiver Boundaries on Spectrum Resources

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39th Annual TPRC (2011).  Sarah Oh, Operations and Research Director of the Information Economy Project at George Mason University School of Law.

This article will discuss exclusion principles for old receivers that occupy spectrum resources. Asymmetric interference in old receivers and the costs of receiver design are two key factors in the analysis. These policy constraints persist despite next generation radios that employ signal back-off and advanced information capacity channels.Indeed, entry of advanced radio devices will be market driven. Yet a tragedy of the commons arises if old receivers do not exit at the appropriate time. The gatekeeper function here relates to exclusion rights, traditionally based in the institution of property. On licensed bands, a private entity manages spectrum-sharing rules between devices,weighing the opportunity cost of underused airwaves as more efficient spectrum technologies come to market. On unlicensed adhoc networks, local operators will likely manage spectrum resources, creating a fragmented group of residual claimants.

This thought experiment raises important questions about exclusion. Can new radios costlessly coexist with old radios? Will incumbent services bear new monitoring costs? Who defines exit principles for lawful but outdated nodes that lag in spectral efficiency? Rather than avoiding the exclusion function, unlicensed spectrum operators may become more, and not less, concerned with boundaries that organize old devices from new. Spectrum efficiency is counter-intuitive: sharing more as a policy, is equivalent to sharing less of the resource, where rational competitors vie to use less of a resource, rewarded with revenues from device sales and data-based services. This is an economics question as much as a technological one. Much engineering innovation remains in battery life, power consumption, computing capacity, sensing capacity, modulation formats, and antenna sophistication; yet economic theory will influence the process of valuation of old receivers as new radios enter around them.  Full text available on SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1911529.

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