I caught up with Dr. William Webb, former director of Ofcom, the telecom regulator of the United Kingdom where he led the Spectrum Framework Review, the development of Spectrum Usage Rights, and the UK white space policy. As CEO of Weightless SIG, he led a standards body for global M2M technology. He now consults. Webb has published 17 books and over 100 papers on spectrum and holds 18 patents. We discussed spectrum policy challenges including the recent Ligado controversy.
Radio spectrum policy continually evolves with market demand for new wireless services and innovations in spectrum efficiency. However, these advancements sometimes collide with the historical granting of rights to federal agencies which are not necessarily required to use their spectrum efficiently and are wedded to technologies which can be difficult and expensive to upgrade. These challenges are common across countries. What can US policymakers learn from the UK?
Ofcom and telecoms provider Arqiva looked at the potential for interference into terrestrial TV reception when 4G was introduced into the 800MHz band. They concluded that 2-3 million households would experience interference. Ofcom went ahead anyway but with a huge mitigation program in place to send filters to those affected. In practice the interference experienced was only about 1/100th of that predicted. Indeed, in almost all cases where there have been dire warnings of interference, but enlightened regulators pushed ahead anyway minimal interference was actually experienced. It reminds me a bit of the Y2K catastrophe predictions 20 years ago—some problems were averted from the warnings, most never materialized, and the few that occurred were resolved quickly.
Read the full interview on Forbes.