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June 8, 2022

Unlocking doors with spectrum efficiency

There is no doubt that we are moving towards a world where frequency spectrum is one of the hottest commodities. Spectrum equals different things depending on who you are talking to, but all are united in wanting more of it, used as efficiently as possible. This week’s blog is the first in a series focusing on spectrum efficiency, what that means for governments, the environment, enterprises, broadcasters, and telecoms, and how we can look to improve spectrum efficiency in different spaces. We will be speaking to specialists across the RFS team to get their take, but first Peter Raabe, Strategic Marketing Director at RFS gives an introduction to the current spectrum landscape.

Peter Raabe, Strategic Marketing Director

What is spectrum efficiency

In essence, spectrum efficiency refers to the amount of data (bits) transmitted over a particular band of spectrum (Hz) and time period (sec) before the network experiences errors. This determines the number of users and the amount of data per user that can be transmitted before we see an impact on Quality of Service (QoS). The more data telecoms, broadcast, and enterprises need, the more vital spectrum efficiency becomes. It is a finite resource and as the appetite for data skyrockets, so too does the need to maximize spectrum efficiency. And we have seen that efficiency gain in action over the past decade. According to CTIA, looking back at networks in 2010, wireless service providers have improved spectrum efficiency by a factor of 42. In 2010, wireless networks in the U.S. handled around 948 million megabytes for every MHz of spectrum. As of 2019, this had increased to 39.9 billion megabytes per MHz, a number that is only growing. But the question is how do those working with spectrum, both in telecoms and other industries, continue to move the needle in term of delivering greater capacity and pushing spectrum efficiency further?

Tackling the physical layer

The topic is one made of many segments, we have different use cases, stakeholders and different agendas, and we have a variety of ways to approach spectrum efficiency. These range from using AI to better manage networks, to beamforming, MIMO and network densification. Ultimately a range of factors will be needed to deliver the spectrum efficiency that is required to meet the needs of the modern world, but in this series, we will concentrate on what can be done at an equipment level. This is RFS’s bread and butter, we have dozens of experts across the globe, and it is an area that can offer significant efficiency gains in a range of scenarios. 

A variety of approaches

Even though we have narrowed down our area of focus to the physical elements of the network, we still have an exceptionally broad topic. Maximizing efficiency for US network providers, may look entirely different to how we work with an enterprise looking at CBRS, or a broadcaster looking to roll out ATSC3.0. Therefore, we’re going to take this industry by industry, looking at the issues they face and giving a practical guide to tackling some of the biggest challenges with spectrum efficiency needing to be solved. 


Spectrum efficiency as a topic is no longer a niche concern of the telecoms industry, but one with much broader impact. As digital transformation continues and the demand for data grows exponentially, it is a problem that concerns an increasing number. The keynote from Nokia CEO, Pekka Lundmark at MWC emphasized that spectrum efficiency is not only vital to support data demand, but as a key piece to sustainability, showing the breadth of impact and highlighting that there is no better time to look to make improvements. Our series will tackle the topic an industry at a time, we look forward to introducing you to some of our in-house experts and demonstrating how to solve at least part of the spectrum efficiency puzzle.