Four observations about COVID-19’s impact on spectrum policy
Sep 15, 2020 by Toby Youell



The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed all aspects of life, including radio spectrum policy. According to our latest research, 23 countries have departed from their standard spectrum policies to make sure their operators had the capacity to support their citizens.

In a new research note, we make four observations about these initiatives:

  • Expedited spectrum releases challenge traditional assignment mechanisms. For example, spectrum auctions may be the most economically efficient way of assigning spectrum, but these initiatives show that they are not always the quickest;
  • The COVID crisis has given technology neutrality a boost. Several regulators have lifted conditions on the use of spectrum that tied deployments to particular technologies, but regulators might wonder what purpose those restrictions really served;
  • Temporary spectrum access provides a bellwether of future demand for airwaves and use cases. Mobile operators always claim to need more spectrum, and these temporary authorisations give them a chance to show if they really would use the additional frequencies.
  • Prospects for temporary policy measures to become more permanent. Sometimes it is harder to undo an assignment than it is to issue a licence, especially if alternatives are problematic.

The research note COVID-19 drives greater flexibility in spectrum policies is available to Spectrum Research Service subscribers here.