San Diego, CA, June 1, 2015 - The only thing that might be more frustrating than having your Wifi go out when you're trying to read an important email is not having access to Wifi at all. As the world becomes more and more dependent on Internet-enabled and other wireless devices – from smart phones and tablets to baby monitors and bluetooth peripherals – the range of available airwaves is rapidly shrinking. Fortunately, better management of available radio frequency spectrum has become a government priority, and The Qualcomm Institute and the UCSD Center for Wireless Communications (CWC) are part of a San Diego alliance that is ready to take on the challenging task of testing dynamic sharing of spectrum.
The San Diego Model City Alliance (http://sdmodelcity.ucsd.edu), a coalition of San Diego city agencies, Department of Defense laboratories, local academic institutions, established telecommunications companies and new startups, was formed in early 2015 in response to a joint public announcement from the National Telecommunication Information Administration (NTIA) and the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Office of Engineering and Technology seeking public comment on the creation of an urban test city to support rapid experimentation and development of policies, technologies, and system capabilities for advanced, dynamic spectrum sharing by wireless devices. In April of this year, representatives of the San Diego Model City Alliance attended a two-day, NTIA- and FCC-sponsored public workshop held in Washington, DC that further explored the potential of establishing a Model City program for demonstrating, evaluating and advancing spectrum sharing innovation with the hope of promoting San Diego as a potential Model City.
"The point of a model city is to do experiments to create the confidence to write new rules," said Ramesh Rao, Director of the UCSD Qualcomm Institute who attended the NTIA/FCC workshop and gave a short presentation on the Alliance's vision for a model city. "San Diego is well positioned for conducting model city experiments. We have a major Navy presence; we have technology leaders like Qualcomm and ViaSat, up-and-coming wireless companies like 5Barz and MaxCentric, and major players in the startup ecosystem, including EvoNexus, Connect, and the VonLiebig Center, but more importantly, there are working relationships in place to conduct joint experiments with other natural partners, like Ericsson and the Idaho National Labs wireless test facility."
According to Rao, CalTrans, Cubic and the San Diego Association of Governments are all actively exploring ways to create smart city services. When you combine San Diego's innovation-oriented environment with its diverse geography, which includes EM propagation spaces in sparsely populated mountain towns, congested freeways, desert outposts, suburban communities and urban canyons, it is clear San Diego would make a super model city.
Recently, Rao gave a talk titled "A San Diego Alliance for a Model City" at the CWC 5G forum held May 14-15 where he outlined some of the key issues facing any potential model city, such as how to ensure terrestrial, cellular, navy radar, and satellite signals successfully co-exist in their relevant bands without interference; how to create ultra-low-cost shared network infrastructure models to support spectrum sharing, and, perhaps most important, the need for new business models to incentivize spectrum and network sharing.
"Successful use of shared spectrum will need to address various technical and policy challenges, which can also lead to significant innovations in products, business models and services, "said Alliance member and CWC Director Sujit Dey who also attended the NTIA/FCC workshop. "It is exciting to think of new applications that can be enabled using lower-cost shared spectrum, for example in various IoT verticals with diverse quality-of-service needs. We look forward to enabling the Model City Alliance to develop and test new technologies and applications to demonstrate the feasibility and effectiveness of using shared spectrum."
A successful model city will need to take many things into consideration and will require the cooperation and investment of both public and private agencies. The San Diego Model City Alliance has taken the first steps to establishing these vital partnerships, but whether or not the region will become one of the first areas to start experimenting with new systems for assigning wireless access will depend on the next steps taken by the Federal government, which are still uncertain and could be a process about as fast as using a dial-up modem.