Spectrum allocation, spectrum commons and public goods: the role of the market.

This paper, published in the Communications and Strategies journal, discusses the reallocation of radio spectrum to valuable new and emerging technologies and services. This is essential to achieving the next wave of productivity and consumer benefits driven by ICT. Currently spectrum is not allocated to the most valuable uses, particularly the large amount of spectrum held for government use, and command and control management cannot respond fully or quickly in reallocating spectrum. To achieve a more economically efficient allocation and the greatest overall benefit market mechanisms including trading and spectrum pricing must be introduced.

Complementary reforms in areas other than spectrum management will be required, and the appropriate boundary between market and non-market allocation mechanisms need to be established. Setting clear principles regarding the market/non-market boundary will help in resisting the inevitable rent seeking by incumbents and potential entrants during the transition to market mechanisms. Countries that do not face up to these challenges and move quickly will see their citizens disadvantaged as spectrum becomes a key economic resource.