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Spectrum Allocation Issues
Radio spectrum is indispensable to the provision of  mobile communication services. The spectrum is a finite resource and can accommodate a limited number of simultaneous users at one time.  For this reason, governments divide the radio spectrum into non-overlapping blocks.  The management of the spectrum involves first, the allocation of these blocks of frequencies for particular users (e.g. broadcasters, military, mobile operators etc..) and second, the assignment of specific frequencies within the allocated blocks to different "licensees".  Generally, licensees have the exclusive right to use the assigned frequencies  to provide designated services.  Typically, spectrum users are granted temporary licenses, even though renewal is often a formality.  

The World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), held every two to three years by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), attempts to establish a global framework for the use of the radio spectrum. Its objective is to establish frequency allocations and regulatory procedures for the harmonious operation of global radiocommunication services. Global coordination ensures that services are not impaired by interference of competing signals and transmissions. 

The last conference, held in Istanbul in May-June 2000 (WRC 2000), approved the additional spectrum requirements for 3G services or IMT-2000. The agreement effectively gave a green light to the mobile industry worldwide to start deploying IMT-2000 networks and services. Mr. Utsumi, the Secretary General of the ITU said: "The entire mobile industry was looking forward to clear signals from this conference to overcome the last hurdle for global wireless systems...This landmark decision now provides a stable basis for investors to back up the industry and gives a clear go-ahead to manufacturers to start building equipment for IMT-2000 for their customers – operators and consumers alike".

Hot Links 

Selected International Materials

ITU, World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC) and Radiocommunication Assemblies

WRC 2003 (9 June - 4 July 2003)

European Radiocommunication Office 

- European Radiocommunication Office (ERO)  Reports on WRC 2000

Radio Spectrum Policy in the European Community

European Commission, Comparative assessment of the licensing regimes for 3G mobile communications in the European Union and their impact on the mobile communication sector, Annex, June 2002


Papers and Articles

New America Foundation, Open spectrum: the new wireless paradigm, Kevin Werbach, October 2002

Spectrum Auctions and Efficient Resource Allocation: Learning from the 3G Experience in Europe, William H. Melody, Telecom Reform (, April 2001

Spectrum Auctions in India, S. Sinha (Indian Institute of Management), Fall 2000

Spectrum Limits and Competition in Mobile Markets: The role of licence fees, H. Gruber, June 2000

Collusive bidding: Lessons from the FCC Spectrum Auctions, P. Crampton and J. Schwartz, Journal of Regulatory Economics, May 2000




ITU Workshop on Licensing of 3G Mobile (Geneva, 19-21 September 2001)   


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Updated : 2011-04-04