Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Better Radio Rights

Demand for wireless services is growing relentlessly, but the ambiguous definition of rights and unpredictable enforcement has led to prolonged inter-service interference disputes that impede innovation and investment.

Silicon Flatirons organized a conference on this topic in DC a couple of weeks ago. The goal was to explore how radio operating rights could best be defined, assigned and enforced in order to obtain the maximum benefit from wireless operations. The event web site has links a fascinating set of position papers prepared by the panelists. There’s also a compendium that collects them all in one place (PDF).

Kaleb Sieh and I proposed (position paper, full paper on SSRN) an approach to radio operating rights based on three principles: (1) aim regulation at maximizing concurrent operation, not minimizing harmful interference; (2) delegate management of interference to operators; (3) define, assign and enforce entitlements in a way that facilitates transactions.

We argue that radio rights should be articulated using transmission permissions and reception protections, defined probabilistically (the Three Ps): transmission permissions should be based on resulting field strength over space and frequency, rather than radiated power at a transmitter; reception protections should state the maximum electromagnetic energy an operator can expect from other operations; both are specified probabilistically. This formulation of operating rights does not require a definition of harmful interference, and does not require receiver standards.

Since any initial entitlement point is unlikely to be optimal, the regulator should facilitate the adjustment of rights by: limiting the number of parties to a negotiation should be limited by minimizing the number of recipients, and enabling direct bargaining by effective delegation; recording a complete and current description of every entitlement in a public registry; stipulating the remedy (injunctions or damages) that attaches to an operating right when it is issued; the regulator refraining from rulemaking during adjudication; leaving parameter values unchanged after an entitlement has been defined, although values may be adjusted though bilateral negotiation between operators, and the regulator may add new parameters at license renewal.