New Report Provides Support for Establishment of Interference Limits for Radio Systems


April 23, 2020

Contact: Nate Mariotti,

Silicon Flatirons Operations Director


New Report Provides Support for Establishment of Interference Limits for Radio Systems

Today, two senior FCC economists published a report on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN), entitled, “Can Market Forces and an Interference Limit Together Promote the Efficient Co-existence of Radio Systems?”. The report provides a detailed economic analysis of an interference limit regime, and concludes that, under certain economic and regulatory conditions, it can improve the efficiency of radio system co-existence.

Authored by William W. Sharkey and Mark M. Bykowsky, the report analyzes the economic benefits of establishing an interference limit, a policy tool that specifies the level of radio interference that receivers should be expected to tolerate before a radio service operator can make a claim to the regulator of harmful interference. It finds that “an interference limit can increase the likelihood that two radio system operators can come to a mutually beneficial agreement about both the level of interference that should exist between [them],” as well as “lead to the manufacture of higher quality receivers.”

The role of receivers in interference is a long-standing topic of the Silicon Flatirons Spectrum Policy Initiative. The idea of an interference limit (also known as a harm claim threshold) was first broached in a Silicon Flatirons event in December 2009. It was further developed in a series of papers, including a 2014 report by the FCC Technological Advisory Council (TAC) on “Interference Limits Policy and Harm Claim Thresholds.” Pierre de Vries, a Director of the Silicon Flatirons Spectrum Policy Initiative, was the principal author of the TAC report, which recommended a three-step process the FCC could adopt to roll out interference limit policy.

The following may be attributed to Pierre de Vries: “My colleague Dale Hatfield has noted that the spectrum policy community has spent more than a decade developing good policy ideas, and the time has now come to turn them into reality. This report is an essential step in deploying interference limits policy, which will increase the value of radio services by helping to balance transmitter- and receiver-created interference, something Dale has championed for decades. This report is the first economic analysis of the interference limit concept, and a significant milestone in its development. It not only provides reassurance of the economic value of interference limits, but also describes the kinds of information a regulator needs to implement it effectively. We commend Drs. Sharkey and Bykowsky on this important work and thank the FCC for providing the authors the time and resources needed to examine this important issue.”

The following may be attributed to Dale Hatfield, former Chief of the Office of Engineering and Technology at the FCC, and a Director of the Silicon Flatirons Spectrum Policy Initiative: “My colleague, Dr. De Vries, is a true polymath and a fountain of original ideas as exemplified by his development of the interference limit concept. Recent events have shown how vital radio spectrum is to the nation’s economic and social wellbeing, and to national defense and homeland security. In that context, I cannot think of anything more important than creating economic incentives for all segments of the wireless industry to improve receiver performance without the government resorting to heavy-handed regulation. I am grateful to my former colleagues at the FCC, Mark Bykowsky and Bill Sharkey, for the work they have done to move the concept forward.”

The following comment may be attributed to Drs. Bykowsky and Sharkey: “This work would not have been done without Pierre and Dale’s determined efforts to find an efficient mechanism to allow the co-existence of multiple radio systems. It is our hope that this paper will help to re-start a careful examination of the role of an interference limit in this endeavor.”

The Silicon Flatirons Spectrum Policy Initiative is directed by Dale Hatfield and Pierre de Vries. In October 2020, the Initiative will host a conference on “Evidence-Based Spectrum Policy” at the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder, Colorado.


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