Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has prepared the “Spectrum Sharing Framework” aimed at using the existing spectrum more efficiently, moving beyond simple frequency or spatial separation.
In order to meet the growing demands of radio frequency spectrum, the regulators have focused on latest trends in spectrum management. The objective of spectrum management is to maximize the social, economic and technological benefits from this natural resource.
Spectrum Management is the process to regulate the use of radio frequencies in an efficient manner. Various technical and regulatory tools are used for the spectrum management and Spectrum Sharing is one such tool. In Pakistan, telecom sector was de-regulated in the year 2003.
The Telecom Policy 2015 allows Spectrum Sharing.
The purpose of spectrum sharing is cooperative use of common spectrum, more efficiently and more effectively. The goal of the Telecom Policy 2015 with reference to spectrum is “Allocation and assignment of spectrum to maximize social and economic benefits derived from the use of this scarce resource”.
Spectrum sharing allows use of existing spectrum more efficiently, moving beyond simple frequency or spatial separation, when the assignee is not using spectrum. Sensors or databases may be used to allow users to share any specific block of spectrum or channels, while avoiding interference.
As the interference will rise with increased number of users in the same spectrum band, therefore, interference management plan is necessary to be in place while granting permission for spectrum sharing.
The Electromagnetic Spectrum is a natural resource and it must be utilized in a well-organized mode. Spectrum Management is the process to regulate the use of radio frequencies in an efficient manner. It describes various administrative and technical procedures to ensure the operation of radio communication without causing or receiving harmful interference.
Various technical and regulatory tools are used for the spectrum management and Spectrum Sharing is one such tool. International trends highlight the importance of achieving more flexible and dynamic use of spectrum. Spectrum Sharing is one method by which enormous amount of spectrum can be made available to new service. Spectrum Sharing is the simultaneous usage of a specific radio frequency band in a specific geographical location by multiple independent users.
There are different types of spectrum sharing; coordinated or un-coordinated. There are many Spectrum Sharing mechanisms. This includes TV white space access and licensed shared access (LSA), and it is also practiced within the European Union.
Spectrum access schemes such as the tiered service approach are used in the US for their broadband radio service. In tiered spectrum access, users can bid for higher priority rights. Technological coordination techniques used in different sharing mechanisms use various forms of dynamic spectrum access (DSA).
Sharing types may be capacity sharing, spatial sharing, and priority sharing (rights of sharers are different; primary, secondary etc). Geo-location databases are used to keep track of users, avoid use in certain locations and/or frequencies and protect existing systems from interference. In cognitive radios, devices determine how to avoid interference.
Spectrum Sharing Framework for Pakistan
This document provides Spectrum Sharing Framework, as per Telecom Policy 2015, to the eligible parties to carry out Spectrum Sharing in Pakistan. This framework has been developed keeping in view latest approaches, the best use of spectrum, sharing conditions, sharing types and interference management as a result of spectrum sharing.
1. Spectrum may be shared between any licensees for the same service(s) or different service(s).
2. Spectrum will be shared only if the relevant licenses that contain the spectrum assignment to be shared, permit sharing.
3. Spectrum assigned to licensees without such a permit will not be shared unless Federal Government (MoIT) specifically authorizes the sharing as being in the public interest.
4. Spectrum Sharing will be of three types:
i. Equal Rights: Both the licensees will have same rights on the shared spectrum
ii. Primary Users: Primary user shall have more rights on the spectrum than the Secondary user. Primary users will be protected against interference caused by usage of shared spectrum by secondary users.
iii. Secondary user: Secondary user will be authorized to share the spectrum subject to the condition that it does not cause interference or degrade quality of service to the primary user(s).
5. The licensed spectrum holders may share all of their assigned spectrum with another party who will also be the valid licensee of the same service(s) or different service(s), till the remaining term of license or for a specific period of time; provided both the licenses are valid for the specified duration.
6. Both licensees will enter into contract agreement to be submitted to PTA at the time of application clearly specifying spectrum to be shared, type of sharing, duration, location and time for sharing( if applicable).
7. A license-holder may share its assigned spectrum with another license-holder only if both the licenses contain the necessary terms and conditions as provided in this framework. After modification of the license conditions, the licensed spectrum holder shall become eligible to enter into a contract to share the spectrum with a licensed operator for the same service(s) or different service(s).
8. Interested parties will apply to PTA, on a prescribed form seeking permission for spectrum sharing. The application form should be duly signed by the CEO or his/her authorized person. An affidavit shall be submitted in case of authorization. Applicants are required to fill the Application for Spectrum Sharing along with the checklist attached as Annex-A to this document.
9. Spectrum holding licensees are allowed to share the spectrum on terms agreed commercially between them. The following procedure for spectrum sharing shall be followed:
a. The license holders shall submit the Spectrum Sharing Application form to PTA duly signed by both the licensees.
b. Both the licensees will provide a comprehensive interference (arising as a result of spectrum sharing) management plan.
c. The information provided on the form will be assessed and considered whether any additional information is required for grant of consent to the sharers.
d. Spectrum held by licensees, can be shared upto 100%. Both the licensees will be in compliance with the prescribed spectrum caps as and when declared from GoP.
e. PTA may seek public opinion from all concerned regarding spectrum sharing and its impact on competition, national security, public health and safety, compliance with the national laws and policies and compliance with international obligations and international relations.
f. PTA may require from interested parties to submit within 10 working days details of any concerns they might have about the proposed sharing.
g. PTA will have detailed assessment of whether the proposed sharing raises sufficient competition concerns.
h. PTA may require meeting(s) with the sharing parties and third parties to discuss issues, if any, related to the sharing.
i. The proposed sharing or otherwise, shall be properly notified to the concerned quarters.
10. The circumstances in which spectrum sharing is automatically barred include the following:
a. Any of the licensees is defaulter of PTA payments and/or roll out obligations;
b. In case, any of the licensees has not consented to the sharing in the form;
c. In case, any legal proceeding(s) related to license(s); license obligations; licensed services or payments etc., are pending against any of the licensees;
d. In case, PTA has not consented to grant spectrum sharing permission due to any reason thereof, and this shall be notified properly by the Authority.
11. Sharing Terms & Price: The sharing terms including price are a matter of commercial negotiation between the parties concerned. However, these should comply with all regulatory requirements as set out in the relevant license conditions.
12. PTA shall charge spectrum sharing processing fee to recover its administrative costs involved in the processing of the application. The processing fee shall be levied on both the licensees and will be Rs. 100,000/-. The licensee(s) shall be responsible to clear all its dues prior to finalizing any contract for spectrum sharing.
13. Spectrum sharing shall not change the original period of spectrum assignment as relevant to the shared block of the spectrum.
14. Licensees will be allowed to use the shared spectrum based on technology neutral policy.
15. Both the licensees will comply with quality of service and all regulatory requirements as set out in the relevant license conditions.
16. Both the licensees will take utmost measures to completely avoid interference or mitigate interference to an acceptable level so that quality of service for end user(s) is not jeopardize as a result of spectrum sharing.
17. Both the licensee will ensure to stop cross border spillage of signals arising as a result of spectrum sharing.
18. Both the licensees, through proper advertisement, will apprise the subscribers the usage of shared spectrum for the services.
19. PTA/FAB may grant approval/rejection within 60 days after receiving the application complete in all respect.
20. PTA will ensure that the telecom services offered by its licensee(s), by sharing spectrum, do not affect subscribers and quality of service is ascertained by the licensee(s) as per license conditions.
21. PTA/FAB reserves the rights to revoke the permission for spectrum sharing in the event interference is caused, as a result spectrum sharing, to other licensed spectrum users.
22. PTA/FAB reserves the rights to revoke the permission for spectrum sharing in the event end user has a degraded quality of service, below a threshold level, as a result spectrum sharing.
23. PTA/FAB reserves the rights to revoke the permission for spectrum sharing in the interest to national security, threat to the competition, hazard to public health and safety, non-compliance with the national laws and policies, international obligations and international relations.