“The Time Has Come For A Revolution In Africa’s Spectrum Management Methods” – William Stucke, Spectrum And Technology Expert
Mr Stucke, responding to questions from Broadcast Media Africa (BMA), in preparation for the Industry Forum On Spectrum Management for Converged Digital Media taking place on the 10th – 11th April 2019 at the Radisson Blu Hotel Sandton in Johannesburg, South Africa, says that Africa’s current spectrum assignment model is slow, expensive and inefficient.
Below is an excerpt of the conversation William had with BMA on the forthcoming Forum where he is a featured speaker and panellist:
BMA: Why did you decide to get involved in this Industry Forum On Spectrum Management for Converged Digital Media?
William: I have had a long association with the spectrum field in South Africa. Some have called me the leading spectrum consultant in this country. Spectrum management is an increasingly important area that is ripe for a revolution in its methods. Currently, spectrum assignment is predicated on 1960s use models, where spectrum is typically assigned on an exclusive, static, basis to a single user for an area (in the PtMP model). Although computerised propagation models and databases of assignments are used, it is still very much a manual process. This is slow, expensive and inefficient.
There are circumstances where this model can be dramatically revised, and dynamic spectrum assignment (DSA) is not only possible but preferable. This is exemplified by the TVWS paradigm. In these circumstances, secondary usage of (typically broadcasting) spectrum may be automatically assigned to devices, with any direct human agency, for a limited time over a limited geographical area, and for limited quantities of spectrum. This is facilitated by two tools: a geo-location spectrum database (GLSD) (typically country-based) and a protocol for accessing White Spaces (PAWS), which is globally accepted.
BMA: In your opinion, what frameworks would be most effective for spectrum administration in a digital space? Please give us a regulatory perspective.
William: For digital terrestrial television (DTT) broadcasting in South Africa, we are very slowly changing over from analogue broadcasting where each channel is separately broadcast by a transmitter at each of several hundred locations. In these circumstances, the broadcaster (e.g. SABC) holds a (national) spectrum licence, while another party (e.g. Sentech) actually operates the transmitters. This does not, for example, preclude a local radio station from owning and operating its own transmitter, with its own spectrum licence, but this is the exception.
In the DTT environment, a single 8 MHz spectrum channel may carry transmissions from many (e.g. 20) different and unrelated broadcasters. Furthermore, through the use of single frequency networks (SFNs), many digital transmitters may carry the identical signal, carefully timed so as to constructively interfere over a large geographical area, such as an entire Province. The exact proportion of the 8 MHz occupied by any one channel may vary automatically, second by second, based on the bandwidth demands (statistical multiplexing) of the images being transmitted.
BMA: Could you please tell us what you hope fellow participants will take away from this industry event?
William: The spectrum arena is a curious mixture of technology and politics, with many role players inadequately informed in one aspect or the other. Hopefully participants will come away with a broader and deeper understanding of the current situation, and where we can go in the future, for our mutual benefit.
About William Stucke: William has played a leading role in the Internet industry in South Africa since 1997 and is an agitator for telecommunications liberalisation in Africa. He has written and presented a number of papers at local and international conferences on the Internet, VoIP, telecommunications, regulations, TVWS and Bridging the Digital Divide.
He spent five years as a Councillor with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), influencing policy and legislation affecting the telecoms and the Internet.
Stucke is now an ICT consultant through his company, William Stucke Associates, consulting on Internet, telecoms, wireless communications, spectrum management, regulation, TVWS, project management, cost modelling, network design and sales strategy development.
William will be speaking at the Industry Forum On Spectrum Management for Converged Digital Media in his capacity as an ICT Policy, Regulation, Spectrum and Technology Expert at his own company, William Stucke Associates.