Deploying Cognitive Radio: Economic, Legal and Policy Issues

2 International Journal of Communication 1114-24 (2008).  Gerald R. Faulhaber, Senior Fellow, Information Economy Project and Professor Emeritus of Business and Public Policy at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Over the past decade, the demand by commercial, military and consumers for use of the electromagnetic spectrum has literally exploded. The most obvious examples are digital cellular telephony and WiFi, both of which have become ubiquitous in developed and less developed countries around the world within a very short time. And there is no indication that this growth in spectrum-dependent technology will abate soon. Tracking devices, machines that can “talk” to one another, exchanging information, are being deployed as we speak.

Unfortunately, the systems we use in the US and worldwide to allocate and manage spectrum is bending under the strain these demands place on the system. Government allocation of spectrum, either by “beauty contests” (traditional) or auction (more recent) has failed to keep up with the growth in demand. Even worse, government allocation has led to an extraordinarily inefficient use of this valuable resource. Large swathes of spectrum are underutilized and beyond our reach even while the demand for wireless voice and data services strains existing wireless providers beyond their capacity.

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