Thursday, September 29, 2011

Licensed Unlicensed: Having your Coase, and your Commons too

I lighted on the notion of issuing a handful of receiver licenses in allocations where transmitter licensees don’t control receivers (e.g. TV, GPS) to facilitate negotiations between operators in neighboring bands; details blogged here.

The same idea could be applied to unlicensed allocations, where the unbounded number of operators makes it essentially impossible for Coasian adjustments to be made: a neighbor that would like quieter unlicensed devices has nobody to make a deal with, nor do unlicensed users have an effective way to band together to make a deal if they’d like to increase their own transmit power. This approach also has the benefit, as in the receiver license case, of giving the regulator a tool for changing operating expectations over time, e.g. ratcheting down receiver protections or increasing receiver standards.

The catch-phrase “licensed unlicensed” is obviously a contradiction in terms; it’s shorthand for a regime where non-exclusive operating permissions are issued to a limited number of entities, while retaining the key characteristic that has made unlicensed successful: the ability of end users to choose for themselves what equipment to buy and deploy. These entities can use or sub-license these authorizations to build and/or sell devices to end-users.

Follow-up post

Friday, September 02, 2011

TV white space databases: A bad idea for developing countries

Now that TV white space rulemakings are in the can in the US and UK, proponents will be pitching the technology to any government that’ll listen, e.g. at the Internet Governance Forum meeting to be held in Nairobi on 27-30 September.

It’s understandable: the more widespread white space database rules, the larger device volumes will be, and thus the lower the equipment cost, leading to wider adoption – a positive feedback loop. However, white space database technology is unnecessary in many countries, particularly developing ones.

Yet it verges on dodgy ethics for companies to hype this technology to countries that don’t need it, particularly since there’s a better solution: dedicating part of the TV frequencies that are freed as a result of the transition to digital TV (the “Digital Dividend”) to unlicensed operation, without the white space bells and whistles.