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Dubai, United Arab Emirates Middle East Spectrum Conference 2011
Emerging trends and challenges
photo: Shutterstock

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates organized the Middle East Spectrum Conference in Dubai on 29–30 March 2011. Now in its second year, the event brought together 110 delegates from 27 countries, including international spectrum management experts, government officials, and representatives of regulators and telecommunication operators, as well as private entities from across the region.

The opening ceremony was addressed by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, among others. “This conference comes at a particularly opportune time, with spectrum issues now being a top priority for all of us. As Secretary-General of ITU, where spectrum issues are discussed, debated and managed on a global basis, I wholeheartedly applaud such conferences and forums,” Dr Touré said.

Radio-frequency spectrum supports all wireless communication services, including broadcasting, mobile radio, microwave, satellite and public safety services. The uses of radio spectrum are ever increasing, with the rise of new technologies and applications. Finding spectrum for the next generation of radio and wireless services is thus one of the key challenges facing regulators worldwide.

The conference considered ways of coping with ballooning data usage and finding the right spectrum to accommodate technological advances. Topics included:

  • New approaches to spectrum enforcement

  • The challenge of GSM refarming

  • Finding the spectrum for 4G networks

  • Tackling the mobile data capacity crunch

  • Reaping the digital dividend

  • Public sector spectrum in the 21st century

  • Cognitive radio: how close is the future?

“The Middle East Spectrum Conference focuses on emerging trends and challenges in spectrum management, while discussing innovative methods and solutions for the efficient use of spectrum,” said Mohammad Al Ghanim, Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates.

“We are already seeing many positive developments in spectrum management, with spectrum refarming and trading now becoming a reality. We are also seeing growing recognition across the sector of the opportunities coming from ’white spaces’ and the ’digital dividend’, resulting from the move away from analogue to digital broadcasting,” Dr Touré noted.

“The conference covers the most pertinent challenges faced by the industry today with regard to radio-frequency spectrum management”, said Tariq Al Awadhi, Executive Director, Spectrum and International Affairs at the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates.

No discussion of spectrum would be complete without mention of the imminent conclusion of the ITU process to establish the radio interface technologies for the next generation of mobile communication systems, which are known as IMT-Advanced.

Highlighting the latest developments, Dr Touré explained that IMT-Advanced is the next big leap forward in mobile technologies, and follows on from the definition of IMT-2000 — better known in the industry as 3G. “Enhanced services, which offer significant performance improvements over the initial 3G deployments, are now being rolled out in a number of countries. These new services, which are being marketed as 4G, can be seen as forerunners of IMT-Advanced,” Dr Touré stated.

ITU membership determined in 2010 that only two technologies passed the selection process for IMT-Advanced, and are qualified to be part of the IMT-Advanced specifications: these are LTE-Advanced and WirelessMAN-Advanced. The detailed specifications of the IMT-Advanced technologies will be published in a new ITU–R Recommendation expected in early 2012. IMT-Advanced services are expected to be available in some parts of the world before the end of 2012.

IMT-Advanced brings major improvements over IMT-2000, including:

  • Increased spectrum efficiency — supporting more users at higher data rates per radio channel;

  • Fully packet-based architecture — meaning reduced costs, and comprehensive support for broadband wireless data;

  • Improved radio resource management and control — for enhanced quality of service;

  • New capabilities for the physical layer of the radio interface — including wideband radio channels, MIMO [multiple input multiple output] smart antennas and flexible deployment options.

“This is all very technical, and can make what is a vital and fascinating subject seem rather dull, but what we are doing here in Dubai, and what ITU is doing in Geneva, is nothing short of shaping the future itself,” Dr Touré commented.

Along with panel discussions and addresses by keynote speakers, the Middle East Spectrum Conference also saw side-events offering training on spectrum policy, spotting and resolving legal issues in spectrum management, spectrum pricing and spectrum auctioning.


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