WAPECS – Europe Moves Towards Technical Flexibility for Wireless Systems
European spectrum management has a reputation for being much more conservative than the policies of the Federal Communications Commission in the US and its counterparts in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Part of this comes from the demands of geography: Europe is full of tightly packed international boundaries and population centers close to international borders making multinational cooperation essential in spectrum management. But, as we describe below, there are changes under deliberation in Europe that could open the door for technical innovation and flexibility just as spectrum uses are converging.
In Europe there are national spectrum management agencies, “administrations” in ITU jargon, as well as two different layers of regional deliberations. The CEPT, European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations, is a 48 nation group that includes all of Western and Eastern Europe, the Russian Republic, and some of the former Soviet republics. While it was originally composed of national PTTs, governmental bodies that operated postal and telecommunications systems, it now is composed of national postal and telecommunications regulators. Its European Radiocommunications Office, located in Copenhagen, is the staff organization that supports the CEPT’s European Communications Committee (ECC). But there is also the Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG), a European Commission organization, representing 27 European Union (EU) member states. Thus the CEPT and the EU represent an overlapping but distinct sets of countries. Another difference is that the European Commission has broad social, economic and industrial policy goals for its member states and the legal authority to make EU-wide regulations. By contrast, CEPT is limited to a telecommunications and postal matters only and has less legal authority.
In May 2004, the European Commission asked its RSPG to develop an “opinion” on a new approach to wireless policy to be tried in a limited number of bands: Wireless Access Platforms for Electronic Communications Services or WAPECS. (Pronounced "wah-pecks".) It is defined as follows:
WAPECS is a framework for the provision of electronic communications services within a set of frequency bands to be identified and agreed between European Union Member States in which a range of electronic communications networks and electronic communications services may be offered on a technology and service neutral basis, provided that certain technical requirements to avoid interference are met, to ensure the effective and efficient use of the spectrum, and the authorisation conditions do not distort competition.
Thus while the “command and control” style of spectrum management has been the hallmark of policy in Europe, the interaction between the European Commission and CEPT is leading to deliberations on a more open style in which regulators are not perceived as the barriers between new technology and their access to the market. Indeed, RSPG found that the long term policy goal
“should be to develop approaches ensuring that spectrum issues related to the growing and evolving variety of radio systems comply with the overall policy goal to develop the European Union internal market and European competitiveness, by ensuring an innovation-friendly and coherent regulatory environment which facilitates rapid access to spectrum for new technologies and leads to the provision of a wide variety of wireless electronic communications services and networks.”Since the European Commission looks at the European economy as a whole, they are more concerned about both the “internal market”, i.e. the trade among EU member states, and the overall competitiveness of the European states in world trade than the CEPT which consists of communications (and postal) regulators from the overlapping set of member countries. The RSPG advocated that “(w)herever possible and appropriate, constraints attached to the usage of specific radio spectrum bands should be removed and spectrum management made more responsive to the rapid development of new markets and services.” This should be good news to wireless researchers innovating new technology for it should increase their speed to market.
The UK’s innovative spectrum regulator, Ofcom, echoed these thoughts saying that it
“believes that the principles (WAPECS) sets out will help to create a more flexible spectrum framework across the EU which will facilitate more rapid access to spectrum and encourage innovation and competition. This will benefit UK businesses by allowing them to act swiftly to take advantage of market opportunities; consumers will benefit too with the rapid introduction of valuable new services.”In December 2007, CEPT’s ECC released a draft report to the European Commission on WAPECS and requested public comment with a deadline of February 19, 2008. The bands identified for WAPECS are now:
These span almost a decade of frequencies and offer a variety of propagation characteristics. Of course, they are all high enough that intermittent ionospheric propagation effects can be ignored, greatly simplifying transborder issues.
- 470-862 MHz;
- 880-915 MHz / 925-960 MHz (900 MHz bands);
- 1710-1785 MHz / 1805-1880 MHz (1800 MHz bands);
- 1900-1980 MHz / 2010-2025 MHz / 2110-2170 MHz (2 GHz bands);
- 2500-2690 MHz;
- 3.4-3.8 GHz
The CEPT draft recommends that service neutrality in WAPECS be defined so that
“Any electronic communications service (ECS) may be provided in any WAPECSWhile this might not seem so innovative to North Americans, a still applicable European Commission directive requires that only GSM can be used in Europe in the 900 and 1800 MHz bands. However, it is anticipated that this directive will be repealed soon by the European Parliament.
band over any type of electronic communications network. No frequency band
should be reserved for the exclusive use of a particular ECS.
The CEPT report discusses three possible models for describing the “least restrictive technical conditions” for limiting usage of a band:
- Traditional compatibility and sharing analysis method
- The Block Edge Mask (BEM) approach to define spectrum usage rights (SURs) – A UK approach [This is actually wrong - see 1st comment below]
- PFD MASKS - Aggregate PFD approach
- Aggregate PSD Transmitter Masks
- The Hybrid Approach
- Space-Centric Management – An Australian approach
The ERO has requested comments on the new WAPECS draft. The due date is February 19. Comments should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope FCC will send comments on this key issue, but given the present disinterest in almost all spectrum matters I doubt if they will.