Unlocking Spectrum Value through Improved Allocation, Assignment, and Adjudication of Spectrum Rights

Wireless, Networks and Infrastructure and Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing

Article Snapshot


Pierre de Vries and Philip J. Weiser


The Brookings Institution Discussion Paper 2014-01, March 2014


Future demand for wireless services will be hard to satisfy, as little unused spectrum remains. Wireless services must use spectrum more intensively. Reform is needed to facilitate intensive use, freeing wireless firms to negotiate deals with neighbors and resolve disputes.

Policy Relevance

Reforms will help wireless firms makes changes and avoid disputes that block innovation and growth. The reforms will generate about $10 billion in new services to consumers.

Main Points

  • In the United States and most other countries, government regulation hinders different users of the radio spectrum from directly negotiating with one another.
  • Citizens, government agents, and firms are increasing their use of wireless devices of all kinds, from smartphone apps to satellite services; improving the management of the electromagnetic spectrum used for radio signals is important to satisfy future demand.
  • When spectrum auctions began twenty years ago, there was much more unused or under-used spectrum; in future, the FCC will have few opportunities to open up access to large blocks of underused spectrum.
  • Interference can no longer be managed by spacing services further part; reforms should clarify exactly how much interference one operator must tolerate from another, by specifying signal levels that must be exceeded before an interference claim may proceed.
  • Reformers should designate a band agent with authority to represent large groups of users in negotiations with other bands.
    • Currently, the spectrum is divided into bands, and portions of each band assigned among many different users.
    • The fragmentation of bands and users makes it hard for users to negotiate changes in operating rights with neighbors on other bands.
  • A Spectrum Court of Claims or judicial branch of the Federal Communications Commission should be created, so disputes over spectrum can be quickly resolved by expert judges.
  • These reforms would allow much more intensive use of the wireless spectrum; the reforms would yield nearly $10 billion per year in additional benefits to consumers.


Get The Article

Find the full article online

Search for Full Article