The Irish regulatory authority ComReg has released a 150-page consultation document entitled “Preparing the Radio Spectrum Management Strategy for 2005 - 2007. An Examination of the Key Drivers Affecting Spectrum Demand, the Economic Impact of Spectrum Usage and a Review of Radiocommunication Services.”

The document includes the results of a study, which shows that, in the year 2003, economic activity relating to usage of the radio spectrum contributed €1,925bn to Irish Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and provided employment to 24768 people, representing 1.4% of GDP and also 1.4% of employment in Ireland.

ComReg introduces two scenarios for future development (with a 10-year timescale):

Scenario 1: “Wireless Boom”: Rapid and substantial growth in the market for mobile, broadcast and broadband services along with a high degree of convergence.

Scenario 2: “Steady Growth”: Gradual evolution of the market, with an ad-hoc approach to accommodate a limited range of new services.

ComReg indicates that it intends to promote spectrum trading (including spectrum leasing) and consults on whether it is desirable to extend this to spectrum trading+re-configuration/change of use, i.e. the permission, following a trade, to use the spectrum for a different purpose than the one for which it was originally allocated/assigned. Trading and re-configuration could start with National Business Radio (PMR, PAMR, GSM-R, etc.), and be extended to other areas in the future.

The document also addresses the potential extension of 3G Mobile into the 2,6 GHz band, and – importantly – asks whether the band 2010-2025 MHz should be made available for other services on a technologically neutral basis. It also asks whether new uses are envisageable in the 4 GHz band, announces a comprehensive review of the 26 GHz band for point-to-multipoint applications, and consults on whether there is demand for 58 GHz spectrum for fixed point-to-point links. ComReg also commits to studying opportunities for opening further bands for unlicensed use.

The document discusses new wireless technologies such as OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing), MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output), UWB (Ultra Wide Band), WiMAX (IEEE 806.16 series of standards and emerging standards), and points out that Ireland was the first EU Member State to permit licence exempt wireless broadband access in the 5,8 GHz band (5725-5875 MHz) and that ComReg chairs a CEPT project team with the aim of developing a harmonised approach to 5,8 GHz wireless broadband access across Europe. It also underlines Ireland’s progressive approach to experimentation with radio spectrum (see also a previous T-REGS news item, which reported on a consultation on trial licensing; the outcome of which has led to the adoption of flexible trial rules).

ComReg makes clear that it considers that the efficient management of spectrum contributes to economic growth by supporting the development of knowledge based services and attracting foreign investment; promoting competition in communications services, promoting the competitive provision of radio based equipment and by supporting the development of new and innovative services in a timely manner.

The regulatory authority invites written comments on any of the issues raised in the consultation paper, and puts 34 specific questions up for consultation.

The full text of the ComReg consultation document can be accessed by clicking here.

An annex, containing amongst others the proposed strategy for specific radio services, and a discussion of legal and regulatory aspects (at Irish, European and global level), can be accessed by clicking here.

The deadline for responding to the consultation is 4 March 2005.

A further report, summarising the output of the consultation, will be published in April 2005, and will be followed later by the publication of a finalised strategy for management of the radio spectrum for the period 2005-2007.