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Peter Cochrane participated in the Cybersalon & Open Spectrum UK conference, FUTURE WIRELESS: practical.discourse.creative, at the Science Museum's Dana Centre, London, 4 October 2005. The following article presents ideas aired in Peter's contribution to the evening Wireless Horizons panel discussion:

The search for spectrum: All the free spectrum we need for a wireless world is there to go get!... All it needs is a change of mindset - the technology will do the rest.

Every time I look at the allocation of radio spectrum channels I go to a brightly coloured wall chart (...) that gives the impression that it is a resource of great scarcity.

However, every time I look at the spectrum using an analyser and antenna I find a desert, just a few signals and a lot of random noise. The reality is that the radio spectrum has, at a modest estimate, a utilisation of less than 10 per cent. What is happening?

Unfortunately, analogue systems and analogue thinking still rules! Dumb transmitters pump out high power AM, FM and PM signals, in many different guises. Then equally dumb receivers listen, plucking out a fraction of the energy from the ether. This is the world I grew up in as a young engineer, where interference, multi-path, scatter and signal-to-noise ratio dominated all design and operational considerations. This automatically leads you to a world of bands and channels - a carving up of the spectrum for individual applications and uses.

But we have a new raft of digital systems being rolled out that have intelligence built into the transmitter and receiver. They talk to each other to minimise the energy used and problems associated with interference and signal scatter. Also, their signal processing aids consistent performance by adjusting the modulation mode. So in contrast to the analogue world, we can reuse time, frequency and space like never before. This gives us a whole raft of new freedoms.

Further: SearchForSpectrumCochrane

  • FUTURE WIRELESS? Some industry and technology observations from Peter Cochrane(posted 30 September 2005)

    See the Cybersalon website for details of the 4 October 2005 conference FUTURE WIRELESS:practical.discourse.creative at the Science Museum's Dana Centre, London: event outline here and programme here

    Looking forward to debate on Future Wireless, Open Spectrum UK has permission to publish a statement on technology observations from Peter Cochrane.

  • In a submission to Ofcom's Independent Audit of Spectrum Holdings, Peter Cochrane says:

    The future is far more likely to be dominated by the small/individual user rather than the giant corporation - and in both realms the opportunity for making more money from spectrum sales/renting will most likely diminish with time - the real wealth will be generated by the freedom to move bits and provide services that service and support business.

    Open Spectrum UK comments:

    Peter Cochrane's industry and technology observations on wireless technology trends highlight a future wireless world beyond the current regulatory mindset. Perhaps the time is ripe for a fresh audit of regulatory thinking, to re-assess the technology, economic, and public policy tools for spectrum management policy. Perhaps also to engage wider public debate upon the strategic national resource of the radio spectrum, "The Invisible Wealth of Nations.

    Further: FutureWireless

    Future Wireless conference - a day of presentation, demonstration, practical workshop, artistic intervention and debate to demonstrate and probe the nature, impact and potential of the wireless Internet, mobile telecommunications and other radio-based technologies. Future Wireless is the lastest in a series of collaborative events with Open Spectrum UK, a coalition of non-profit organisations engaged in community wireless networking and the advocacy of licence-exempt access to radio spectrum - as part of NODE.London's autumn '05 season

    Speakers are now confirmed for the discourse.wireless track:

    discourse.wireless Sessions:

    Convenor: John Wilson, Open Spectrum UK

    Emerging wireless broadband technologies have been deployed in the UK in recent years as an innovative first mile/last mile solution for remote and rural areas. And with the current hype surrounding WiMax, wireless is poised to transform the coverage map across all geographies to deliver the vision of “Broadband Britian”. Join our experts in this unique reflection upon where we've come from and where we're heading on the "Broadband Britain" journey.

    * We focus upon three leading UK wireless broadband deployments at the community, regional and national levels, to explore wireless and the evolving communications landscape ecology.
    * We also engage global expertise to explore our Future Wireless theme, as BT are a member of the WiMax consortium and Peter Cochrane is a celebrated technology futurist (and former CTO for BT).
    * Join us in our discursive enquiry into such issues as Wireless Broadband- DIY or DIFM? (do-it-yourself or do-it-for-me?) Broadcast or narrowcast? Spectrum, The Invisible Wealth of Nations?


    2.45-4.00pm - discourse.wireless
    Daniel Heery (Alston Cybermoor) - Community, Broadband and Narrowcast
    Barry Eaton (Anglesey Connected) - Building a Regional Broadband Network

    5-6.00pm - SuperNode Keynotes
    Ian Robinson (Head of Emerging Products, BT) - BT and WiMax
    Peter Cochrane (ConceptLabs) - Future Wireless? Technology, Regulation & Society
    Giles Lane (Proboscis) - Social Tapestries: Public authoring in the Wireless City


    7.00-8.15pm - WIRELESS HORIZONS PANEL SESSION 1, Presentations & Audience Q&A

    Provocateur: John Wilson (OpenSpectrumUK)
    Dooeun Choi (Arts Center Nabi)
    Peter Cochrane (Concept Labs)
    Robert Horvitz (Open Spectrum Foundation)
    Adam Hyde (radioqualia)
    Tapio Mäkelä (HIIT/m-cult)
    Francis McKee (Glasgow Centre for Contemporary Art)
    Ian Robinson (BT)
    Marc Tuters (University South California)

    8.45-10.00pm - WIRELESS HORIZONS PANEL SESSION 2, Presentations & Audience Q&A

  • Announcing FUTURE WIRELESS:practical.discourse.creative
    At the Science Museum's Dana Centre, London, 4 October 2005 (posted 24 August 2005)

  • Future Wireless conference - a day of presentation, demonstration, practical workshop, artistic intervention and debate to demonstrate and probe the nature, impact and potential of the wireless Internet, mobile telecommunications and other radio-based technologies. Future Wireless is the lastest in a series of collaborative events with Open Spectrum UK, a coalition of non-profit organisations engaged in community wireless networking and the advocacy of licence-exempt access to radio spectrum - as part of NODE.London's autumn '05 season

    See the Cybersalon website for event details here and here

    Update 2 Sept 2005: Ofcom announcement- For information: a new publication has been added to the website of the Independent Audit of Spectrum Holdings. The Audit, being carried out by Professor Martin Cave, commissioned a report from consultants Analysys Mason on future commercial demand for spectrum as background information for the Audit. This study is published on the Audit's website today and can be found at under "News". It makes scenario-based demand projections focusing on the next 10 years but extending to 20 years, for cellular, fixed link, broadband wireless access, satellite and terrestrial TV broadcasting services, and concentrating on the major uses and users of the spectrum below 15GHz.

    Extract from UK Treasury press release: 7 July 2005

    Professor Martin Cave today invited views on issues that he will address in his Independent Audit of Spectrum Holdings, which focuses primarily on public sector holdings. These issues are set out in a consultation document and interested parties are encouraged to respond to the issues raised, which indicate the proposed direction of the Audit.

    The radio spectrum is a valuable, finite resource. In the 2004 Pre-Budget Report, the Chancellor of the Exchequer commissioned an Independent Audit of Spectrum Holdings. The Audit is focusing on bands below 15GHz used by the public sector and fixed links and concentrating on those with the most potential for use by commercial organisations. Professor Martin Cave was asked to investigate whether these frequencies are being used as efficiently as possible and to review the effectiveness of incentives for making efficient use of spectrum.

    Professor Martin Cave said:

    “Radio spectrum is a valuable resource. The public sector is the largest user of this resource, for which there has been - and is likely to continue to be – growing commercial demand. It is therefore important to ensure that effective use is being made of these holdings. The introduction of market mechanisms into spectrum management will introduce both challenges and opportunities for the public sector. These need to be addressed, and mechanisms put in place to incentivise efficient use of these major holdings, now and in the future, while safeguarding the operation of essential security and safety of life services. I would encourage all those with an interest in these issues – public sector uses and those commercial users who might benefit from the changes we are suggesting – to contribute to this consultation. ”

    The closing date for responses is 1st September 2005. Professor Cave will publish his recommendations and Final Report ahead of the Pre-Budget Report 2005.

    Read More ...

    28|06|05 | Ofcom approach to spectrum management |
    Ofcom today published the conclusion of its Spectrum Framework Review, setting out its approach to the future management of radio spectrum in the UK. The Review advocates a market-led approach, in contrast to the previous regime under which the regulator decided the type of organisation that should have access to specific parts of the spectrum, and how they should be used. Ofcom’s proposals were subject to public consultation and were broadly supported by stakeholders. - Full press release here

    29 June 2005 | Dugie Standeford | Communications Daily (Washington, USA) | a subscription news service: | Reproduced with permission of Warren Communications News

    "The regulator envisions market forces will manage 72% of
    spectrum, while 7% will fall under license-exempt use, and the
    other 21% will be managed under current Ofcom approaches. The Open
    Spectrum Foundation, which lobbies for more radio bands for license
    exempt use, called Ofcom's decision disappointing. Ofcom 'made a few
    minor changes, like agreeing to periodic surveys of congestion in
    some of the unlicensed bands,' said Dir. Robert Horvitz. But it
    failed to understand its own statement that where use of particular
    equipment for wireless telegraphy isn't likely to cause harmful
    interference, that use must be exempt from license requirements, he
    said. Capping license-exempt spectrum at 800MHz or estimating how
    much of it is 'needed' is simply wrongheaded,' he said. Ofcom is
    required by law to justify the need for licensing, not license
    exemption, Horvitz said."

    Read More ...

    Bearing points for debate: Towards an Open Spectrum policy?

  • The reform of Spectrum Management Policy is one of the strategic issues for the Communications Agenda in the UK at present! Yet spectrum policy is below most people's radar- no pun intended.
  • We may say that the radio spectrum is rather a part of The Invisible Wealth of Nations. We need to engage wider public debate on the future of this strategic national resource.
  • Open Spectrum UK argues for a balance of the commercial and the public interest in access to and use of the radio spectrum.

  • Read More ...

  • Announcing Wireless Utopias 05: An Open Future for Spectrum?
    May 26th, 7-9pm at the Science Museum's Dana Centre. (posted April 26th 2005)

    Cybersalon and Open Spectrum UK host a unique debate on the future of wireless communications and the strategic prospects for utilising the radio spectrum. Put questions to a panel of leading International experts and Ofcom representatives who will discuss the big issues of technology, regulation and society. Part of the Wireless London initiative.

  • The context for this second event in the Wireless Utopias series is Ofcom's Spectrum Framework Review, and we explore wireless utopias from the open market to open spectrum. The radio spectrum is a part of The Invisible Wealth of Nations, and we need to engage wider public debate. Is the radio spectrum a common public good and global resource, or a commodity subject to the discipline of the market place?

    Programme details and speakers to be announced shortly. See the Cybersalon website for registration and Venue details.

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