This article is taken from the ACMA's Five-year Spectrum Outlook 2013-2017, published in September 2013.
The Five-year spectrum outlook 2013–2017 is available for download as an e-mag, PDF and word document here. The Table of contents and links to individual sections of the report are available here.
The ACMA actively monitors and researches emerging technologies that have potential to significantly enhance the lives of Australians. As a result, the ACMA actively maintains awareness of international spectrum developments and other allocational spectrum management issues. In some circumstances, the ACMA has the opportunity to provide access to spectrum for trial purposes.
Identifying emerging technologies that utilise spectrum in new and innovative ways will be a challenge over the next decade. Advances in smart radio design, smart antennas, new digital signal processing and modulation techniques, software defined radios (SDR) and cognitive radio systems (CRS) are likely to broaden the capabilities and flexibility with which new wireless systems can be designed. Associated with this, the ACMA will also need to consider issues associated with the existing regulatory framework to determine whether current arrangements will suit proposed deployment of likely future emerging technologies.
5.9.1 Dynamic spectrum access technologies
Dynamic Spectrum Access (DSA) describes technologies that are designed to operate in spectrum that is not being used in a particular area or at a particular point in time. While these technologies operate at power levels that have the potential to cause interference to primary users, the constant monitoring of the DSA device’s environment allows it to dynamically move its transmission to other ‘unused’ frequencies to minimise the interference.
At present, the only mature devices operate in television broadcast spectrum at locations where channels are not being used for television or other authorised services. This is known as ‘TV white space’. However, white-space devices could be developed to use white space in other bands, for example, to provide broadband services especially in rural and remote areas where spectrum is generally less congested. DSA technologies can significantly increase the efficiency of spectrum use by enabling radios to access and share available spectrum.
Arrangements to address spectrum management issues associated with these technologies will be the subject of further work by the ACMA. DSA technologies are likely to challenge traditional views of spectrum regulation but they present opportunities to facilitate access to the spectrum to gain the most benefit. The ACMA is also mindful of these technologies when designing technical frameworks for new and expiring spectrum licences.
5.9.2 Ultra wideband
Ultra wideband (UWB) technologies use extremely wide bandwidths (typically >500MHz) to improve the communication of data in high noise, high interference or low signal strength environments. UWB technologies can be used to provide a range of services including short-range, high-capacity wireless data transfer; high-precision, short-range radar for motor vehicles; precision location RFIDs; and ground- or wall-penetrating radar systems.
Most UWB systems operate at very low signal levels and, because of their wideband nature, their emissions often look like the noise floor to narrower bandwidth radiocommunications systems. UWB systems have been described as noise floor or underlay systems implying that they are capable of being operated underneath existing services; that is, on the same frequency and in the same area. Their use has the potential to significantly increase the number of systems operating in currently used spectrum.
However, many operators of existing radiocommunications services see the widespread use of UWB technologies as likely to cause a rise in the overall noise floor experienced by their systems. The rising man-made noise floor is slowly reducing available margins of existing radiocommunications services. This loss of margin can lead to a potential loss of reliability for these existing services or alternatively lead to a need to replace existing equipment or install additional equipment to counteract the effect.
The concerns expressed by operators of existing radiocommunications services led to significant work in the ITU-R to update the protection requirements for existing services and to develop a framework for the introduction of UWB technologies that would protect existing services.
The ACMA intends to review existing arrangements to allow UWB technologies to be deployed in various bands while providing adequate protection to existing services. This work will be done through consultation with industry.
5.9.3 Smart infrastructure
Smart infrastructure is technology based, adaptive infrastructure that combines two-way communication systems with infrastructure. The systems gather real-time data and use the information to improve efficiency, report and dynamically fix problems and adapt to meet requirements. Smart infrastructure is recognised as a major development that will modernise the transport, resource, mining, electricity, gas and water sectors over the coming decades.
Due to the anticipated ubiquitous nature of smart devices in the future, wireless communication will likely be a major component of the operation of smart infrastructure systems. Therefore, radiofrequency spectrum will be required to facilitate area-wide and state-wide smart infrastructure networks.
While a number of countries have allocated spectrum for a particular infrastructure sector (for example, to smart electricity grids), the ACMA is taking a unique, holistic approach to spectrum for smart infrastructure. The ACMA hopes to encourage spectrum sharing within and across different infrastructure sectors which will result in greater spectrum efficiency than ad hoc, single-sector solutions.
The ACMA believes that the greatest spectrum efficiency and overall public benefit is likely to be achieved by a nationally harmonised approach to spectrum for smart infrastructure. The ACMA’s smart infrastructure project team is working across various sectors to determine the spectrum needs for smart infrastructure and promote a nationally harmonised approach across various smart infrastructure projects. These projects include, smart electricity grids, intelligent transport systems, and monitoring of water resources. The ACMA project team will continue to work with the various smart infrastructure sectors in 2013 and beyond.
An allocation for the infrastructure industry in the 1800 MHz band is been considered in regional and remote areas of Australia. The ACMA intends to work with industry to investigate options for access and allocation of this spectrum in the future.
5.9.4 Home network
The home network is an example of smart infrastructure that is used to interconnect a wide variety of digital devices predominantly designed for use by consumers. The home network environment includes entertainment, telecommunications and home automation systems, and provides connectivity between system devices and associated services.
A variety of fixed and wireless technology solutions are available to provide the infrastructure within the home environment. The ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) has set a global wired home networking standard (G.hn) to ensure higher data rates over legacy cabling systems.
WiFi technology is increasingly used in the provision for accessing the internet, streaming music, video and data content around the networked home. With the release of the IEEE 802.11n standard, home users can achieve wireless data rates of 300 Mbps using a 40 MHz wide channel in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz class-licensed bands.
With the exponential demand for wireless communications, researchers are looking to an alternate fraction of the electronic magnetic spectrum which has 10,000 times more available capacity than the radiofrequency spectrum; visible light spectrum. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) provide researchers with a technique to manipulate the optical signals by rapidly changing the intensity of a LED that is imperceptible to the human eye, yet still providing illumination. The fluctuation in intensity creates a high speed data stream which can be detected by devices such as computers or smartphones in and around the home or office. This technique, coined Li-Fi, can potentially transmit data at 100 Mbps and has gained the attention of the IEEE.
The ACMA recognises the emerging role and importance that home networks have in the digital home and will continue to monitor existing and proposed technologies that utilise spectrum for device interconnection and the delivery of services.
5.9.5 Near-field communications
Near-field communications (NFC) is a short-range connection technique that enables communication between devices that are within approximately 40 mm of each other. Advances in miniaturisation of components along with the increase in
e-commerce are driving a wider adoption by Australian retailers and banks as a payment process for goods and services. This is likely to continue as the inclusion of NFC capabilities becomes a regular feature on mobile phones. Trials have been conducted by some major financial institutions in Australia.
NFC reduces the time and costs involved in transactions. The process of bringing a card or a smartphone close to the NFC terminal can be used for entry, payment or the exchange of information. The process is being marketed with a number of terms that include ‘tap’, ‘wave’ and ‘wallet’.
There are a number of planned uses of the NFC technique that include:
> mobile payments and store vouchers
> authentication, access control—store electronic keys, loading data on NFC phones
> data transfer between different NFC-units (peer-to-peer data exchange) like NFC smartphones, digital cameras, notebooks
> ‘unlocking’ another service (such as opening a WiFi or Bluetooth link for data transfer)
Other uses are likely to emerge as the NFC ecosystem continues to develop.
The ACMA has multi-faceted interest in the development of NFC and has released a consultation paper, Near-field communications—Emerging issues in media and communications, Occasional paper 2, on this topic.
5.9.6 WRC-15 Agenda items
The following WRC-15 Agenda item is relevant to the emerging technologies:
> Agenda item 1.18—to consider a primary allocation to the radiolocation service for automotive applications in the 77.5–78.0 GHz frequency band in accordance with Resolution 654 [COM6/23] (WRC-12).
 Network World, Toward a Gigabit Wi-Fi Nirvana: 802.11ac and 802.11ad, viewed 26 September 2011, www.networkworld.com/news/tech/2011/021411-gigabit-wifi.html.
 Page 19 appendix to Mobile NFC Technical Guidelines Version 2 Nov 2007 from the GSMA (GSM Association).