New Times, New Methods: Upgrading Spectrum Enforcement
A Silicon Flatirons Roundtable
Thursday, November 14, 2013; 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM
University of Colorado Law School
The increasingly complex radio spectrum environment is changing the nature of interference risks and the practice of enforcement. At the same time, new technologies promise more effective procedures for interference resolution and enforcement. This roundtable aims to map the changing engineering and regulatory landscape, and explore new approaches to interference detection and enforcement.
It is well understood that the U.S. is experiencing an explosive growth in wireless communications devices and systems that must successfully operate not only in close proximity to one another in frequency, space and time but also to other electrical and electronic devices that unintentionally emit or are susceptible to electromagnetic waves. The increased density of devices increases the risk of disruptive and harmful interference. Moreover, the value of both commercial and non-commercial (e.g., public safety) applications has put more pressure on the FCC to protect the radio spectrum environment appropriately and, in particular, to resolve interference cases "in real-time." This is especially true for those cases that have an immediate impact on critical infrastructure and hence the safety of life and property.
In the past, the FCC has used a plethora of both long term techniques (such as operator and technician licensing and equipment authorization) and short term techniques (such as advisories, field investigations and enforcement actions) to reduce the number of interference conflicts and to resolve them when they did arise.
However, today's wireless technologies are increasingly capable of
- Operating with virtually unlimited numbers of waveforms (or types of signals);
- Utilizing dynamic rather than more static channel assignment techniques with the inherent ability to operate across multiple bands;
- Making concurrent use of overlaid macro-, micro- and pico-cell architectures (so called HetNets); and
- Producin more "noise-like" broadband digital signals that are often harder to detect, decipher, identify and locate at a distance.
Moreover, today's transmitting/receiving systems may be installed and configured by individuals with little or no technical training, working for entities whose core business interest or mission lies elsewhere.
On a brighter note, these increasingly "intelligent" and flexible devices and systems have greater potential to detect, identify, mitigate and report on interference that they encounter. Opportunities for change include
- Standardized, automated interference incident management reporting, and mining of the resulting data.
- Crowd sourcing enforcement with user device that assist in detecting, identifying and locating sources of interference, and routinely measuring interference and noise to "calibrate" propagation models.
- With appropriate privacy protection, use of end user equipment to record information on system/device performance and interference/noise environment in order to later identify the cause and source of interference incidents (similar to aircraft "black boxes" recorders)
These fundamental technological, operational and business trends, coupled with recent examples of deliberate interference ("jamming"), suggest the need to:
- Reexamine the underlying rules and regulations that stem from the Commission's fundamental mandate to protect the increasingly precious radio spectrum environment;
- Evaluate the professional skill sets, interference resolution processes and the specialized equipment that the agency employs in resolving interference complaints and enforcing its interference-related rules;
- Do so in a more holistic way that takes into account the breadth and depth of those trends.
This workshop brings together two dozen spectrum experts with a wide variety of backgrounds and expertise to address these questions and frame recommendations for the Federal Communications Commission, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and other policymaking groups.
The goal of the roundtable is to map the landscape and seek consensus recommendations regarding interference resolution, enforcement programs and procedures, and methods for improving interference measurement and mitigation.