Airspace management, in the telecoms industry, involves monitoring and supervising the radio spectrum and the use of specific radio frequencies. This is necessary because the radio spectrum is a limited resource and thus should be used efficiently. This has become more important and challenging as demand for wireless technology grows, particularly with the development of new technologies like the fifth generation of wireless mobile telecommunications technology (5G) and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Fundamentally, radio spectrum is a shared resource that needs to be managed effectively to work to the mutual benefit of everyone using it. There are two types of radio spectrum and below are the main differences:
- Licensed spectrum, which encompasses cellular networks, is sold at auctions by the government and it is tightly regulated by Ofcom in the UK. Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are restricted to using only the spectrum they have acquired to provide coverage to all their customers. As the radio spectrum is licensed to a specific MNO, no one else can use it. This limits the level of interference to the cellular network that could potentially degrade the quality of service including issues in accessing the network and even dropped calls. Ofcom have the right to investigate and hand out penalties to address illegal spectrum sharing. Nevertheless, airspace management is also useful in this situation to make sure that interferers are kept to the minimum throughout constant monitoring.
- Unlicensed spectrum, which encompasses Wi-Fi, is free and radio frequencies can be used by anyone. In this case the ‘airspace’ is spectrum and volume within a building where airspace management is essential to ensure reliable service and avoid data congestions. To help explain this, let’s look at how this would work in a shopping centre. When several shops want to offer Wi-Fi connectivity to their customers and deploy Wi-Fi equipment within close proximity to each other, the landlord would then be required to restrict the Wi-Fi’s power levels for each shop. This would prevent a shop from turning up their Wi-Fi’s power unnecessarily as it would cause interference to other shops nearby. Limiting Wi-Fi RF signal strength would need to be set out in the lease contract and would allow everyone’s Wi-Fi to work together harmoniously.
From an airspace management perspective and in addition to the radio spectrum types abovementioned, the introduction of IoT technology has created somewhat of a conundrum for the wireless world. Many IoT devices create their own networks and there are many protocols that traditional Wi-Fi scanners cannot detect, which makes the management of the network significantly more complicated and calls for a unified approach to the IoT standards.
Although licenced and unlicensed spectra work and are managed in very different ways, it is very important that they are regulated and managed closely. iWireless Solutions are able to help with both, from investigating high noise levels and filing written reports for Ofcom to creating a lease contract with regular audits to ensure it is adhered to. To find out more speak to one of our technical specialists by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone us on 01342 305038.