Solutions to a crowded radio spectrum
As the radio spectrum continues to get more crowded, users will have to share. This could involve sharing in time, in space or in frequency. Regardless of the specifics, solutions will need to be tested in a controlled environment. There are early signs of cooperation. The National Science Foundation and SpaceX recently announced an astronomy coordination agreement to benefit radio astronomy.
Working with astronomers, engineers, software and wireless specialists, and with the support of the National Science Foundation, we have been leading a series of workshops to develop what a national radio dynamic zone could provide. This zone would be similar to existing radio quiet zones, covering a large area with restrictions on radio transmissions nearby. Unlike a quiet zone, the facility would be outfitted with sensitive spectrum monitors that would allow astronomers, satellite companies and technology developers to test receivers and transmitters together at large scales. The goal would be to support creative and cooperative uses of the radio spectrum. For example, a zone established near a radio telescope could test schemes to provide broader bandwidth access for both active uses, like cell towers, and passive uses, like radio telescopes.
For a new paper our team just published, we spoke with users and regulators of the radio spectrum, ranging from radio astronomers to satellite operators. We found that most agreed that a radio dynamic zone could help solve, and potentially avoid, many critical interference issues in the coming decades.
Such a zone doesn’t exist yet, but our team and many people across the U.S. are working to refine the concept so that radio astronomy, Earth-sensing satellites and government and commercial wireless systems can find ways to share the precious natural resource that is the radio spectrum.
Christopher Gordon De Pree, Deputy Electromagnetic Spectrum Manager, National Radio Astronomy Observatory; Christopher R. Anderson, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering, United States Naval Academy, and Mariya Zheleva, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, University at Albany, State University of New York