Spectrum refers to the airwaves over which all wireless communication devices communicate. Dynamic spectrum access is a new spectrum sharing paradigm that allows secondary users to access the abundant spectrum holes or white spaces in the licenced spectrum bands.
The Dynamic Spectrum Alliance – a global organisation advocating for laws and regulations that will lead to more efficient and effective spectrum utilisation – says in the 2020s, dynamic spectrum access should start being the norm, rather than the exception as it is today. It encourages emerging markets to lead the way in dynamic spectrum access, similarly to what Africa has done with mobile money adoption.
The alliance is working within the International Telecommunication Union to spread its advocacy for new spectrum policies that favour opportunistic spectrum access and concepts such as spectrum sharing.
"Currently, spectrum management uses what is referred to as static licensing regimes, meaning spectrum is licensed for a fixed period to a primary user. Dynamic spectrum access proposes that this available spectrum be shared either by accommodating different types of uses, or by accommodating multiple user groups," says Moshe Masonta, senior researcher for wireless computing and networking research at the CSIR.BITRI is interested in building its own television white spaces (TVWS) experimental network, as well as establishing Botswana's own national geo-location database, and has requested the CSIR to assist with the design and deployment of Botswana's TVWS network test-bed.
It is this network that will be used by the two entities for long-term collaborative research on dynamic spectrum access and sharing on the TV-band frequencies.
TVWS technology is promoted as a mechanism to achieve rural broadband using automated, but managed, spectrum allocation for secondary, low power communication in the TV bands. This provides for better propagation characteristics than in the GHz frequency bands. TVWS can be used for alternative wireless communication services.
Five schools and two clinics in Gaborone, Botswana have been identified as the TVWS trial sites for the research project.
"The reason we have chosen schools is that they are centres of innovation and they will also benefit from having high-speed Internet connections, which aid e-learning. The research will also help formulate regulations and policies around TVWS utilisation in the country," says Dr Ephraim Gower, BITRI's TV white space project manager.
The CSIR has had a similar project in Cape Town where 10 schools were connected to fast Internet through TVWS. Another collaborative project of this kind exists between the CSIR and the Ghana Technology University College where six schools will be connected through TVWS in Accra.
Current research on the dynamic spectrum access has focused on the unused spectrum between television channels. Television broadcasters leave ‘white spaces' to avoid interference in adjacent channels. In this regard, the CSIR has expertise in building networks using TVWS, without interfering in any way with adjacent channels.
"There is high demand for spectrum below 5GHz band, especially in developing countries where there is a challenge to connect over one billion people. Through our long-term collaborative agreement, BITRI will be able to use the intellectual property on aspects of the CSIR's geo-location spectrum database to do further research on dynamic spectrum allocation for broadband access," says Masonta.
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