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Microsoft's lab tracks spectrum usage in detail

Brussels-based observatory aims to provide in-depth picture of how frequencies are used, to aid regulatory decisions


Published: 31 January, 2013

READ MORE: Spectrum | Europe | Microsoft | R&D | Regulator

Microsoft has this month opened a European research center which plans to concentrate on spectral efficiency as a driver for wireless broadband access. The European Spectrum Observatory has been set up in Brussels, Belgium, at Microsoft's Cloud and Interoperability Centre. The Observatory will provide a common repository for data on spectrum usage to be collected, analyzed, and presented to regulators and other interested parties.

"Wide swathes of spectrum continue to be statically dedicated to a particular use, even if they are not fully utilized," the company said. "If a more dynamic approach to spectrum management were adopted, spectrum utilization could be vastly increased, thereby alleviating a key bottleneck to wireless broadband access."

In understanding how spectrum is used by different devices, a key challenge is keeping track of how, when and which spectrum is being used at any one time, says the software giant. That information could help regulators make more informed decisions on rules and usage, and which new frequencies would best support expanded services.

The Brussels center joins two other buildings set up in Redmond and Washington, and will both collect and analyze the data needed to make decisions on how spectrum should be deployed, and particularly which bands could be shared effectively. The installation collates data from a number of monitoring stations, which scan for signals being transmitted between 30MHz and 6GHz (commonly used for TV broadcasting, mobile phones and satellite communication) every three seconds. These stations measure the power of each signal, which can then be processed at the Spectrum Observatory using Microsoft's Azure Cloud platform.

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