The Pacific Telecommunications Council’s (PTC) Spectrum Futures conference, examining the role of spectrum-based services to provide Internet access to the people of South Asia and Southeast Asia, was held in Singapore from 10-11 September 2015.

Mobile, infrastructure and long haul service providers, regulators, app providers and in-region academics and trade associations assembled over the course of two days to engage in active discussions on a range of hot topics spanning from digital inclusion to business models; the role of mobile, satellite and unmanned aerial vehicle networks, long haul and cloud computing roles; and new ways of releasing, managing and expanding spectrum.

Though some attendees expected a narrow discussion of spectrum policy, many said they were surprised that the conference took a comprehensive view of all the many changes that will shape the ability to deliver affordable Internet access. Attendees also learned about 5G mobile networks, new access platforms, the key role of shared spectrum and how core networks will evolve.

Spectrum Futures has always been based on the premise that many different spectrum platforms will be part of the set of solutions enabling Internet access.

Many people hear the word “wireless” and think mobile. But the range of spectrum-based Internet access is much broader than that, including fixed wireless, satellite, Wi-Fi and new platforms such as balloons or unmanned aerial vehicles.

Spectrum Futures 2015

That was why Chris Weasler, Facebook’s global head of spectrum policy & connectivity planning, talked about the role of unmanned aerial vehicles in bridging the gap between fixed access and satellite access across the region.

Significantly, Weasler pointed out that Facebook sees unmanned aerial vehicles as providing a wholesale backhaul service for mobile operators.

Mariah Shuman, O3b Networks regulatory counsel and Vaibhav Magow, Hughes Network Systems regional sales director Asia Pacific, focused on satellite backhaul for mobile operators and others.

Use of new high throughput satellites was highlighted by Cyril Annarella, Kacific Broadband Satellites executive director. Content delivery networks using satellite was the subject of remarks by Vern Fotheringham, V-Satcast, LLC executive chairman.

H Sama Nwana, Dynamic Spectrum Alliance executive director, also noted that mobile networks likewise would never cover 100 percent of potential users. That is why the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance promotes the use of TV White Spaces, for example.

Spectrum sharing in many forms, including 4G and 5G mobile networks, was discussed by Alex Orange, Qualcomm Incorporated director of government affairs, Southeast Asia & Pacific, Johan Adler, Ericsson VP, government and industry relations, Southeast Asia and Oceania and Heikki Kokkinen, Fairspectrum CEO.

Jeffrey Yan, Microsoft Corporation director of technology policy, looked at spectrum sharing in the context of TV White Spaces, as did Hemant Mallapur, Saankhya Labs co-founder & VP of engineering and Peter Stanforth, Spectrum Bridge Inc, CTO & founder.

Moreover, the local “access” is part of the changes coming in the Internet ecosystem, which is virtual at the app level, but becoming more virtual at every network level as well.

That is why Anup Changaroth, Ciena director of portfolio marketing, Asia Pacific talked about software defined networks, or Bill Barney, Reliance Communications (Enterprise) & Global Cloud Xchange CEO, talked about the role of networks supporting cloud computing.

Damien Spillane, director of engineering for Digital Realty echoed many of those same themes, pointing out that modern apps and software are served up at data centers, even when consumed by mobile device users.

Since most computing now is “computing at a distance,” Qian Zhong, TE Subcom managing director, Asia Pacific sales, Sean Bergin, APTelecom president and consultants Julian Rawle and Paul McCann talked about the role of undersea networks in supporting end user Internet access.

Spectrum Futures 2015

Professor Rekha Jain, IIMA-IDEA Telecom Centre of Excellence executive chair, illustrated why Spectrum Futures exists at all: the huge challenges of overcoming the digital inclusion divide in India.

Rajan Mathews, Cellular Operators Association of India director general, pointed out the tremendous challenges faced by mobile Internet Service Providers in business model and spectrum access areas.

Likewise, Chaucer Leung, assistant director of the Office of the Communications Authority, Hong Kong, talked about different ways of managing scarce spectrum resources, including spectrum sharing.

The role of applications was covered by Woro Indah Widiastuty, senior technology advisor for the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology of the Republic of Indonesia, and Wan Faizal Wan Hassan, Axiata Group Berhad Malaysia AVP.

The coming importance of Internet of Things and over-the-top apps and services was highlighted by Robert Pepper, Cisco VP, Global Technology Policy, Haris Kremo, Toyota InfoTechnology Center researcher and Raakesh Menon, Telstra senior segment manager.

Spectrum Futures deliberately chose to emphasize all of the changes–in the whole value chain–that will soon shape the Internet access business across the region.

One key reason for that approach to spectrum-based access is that, to a growing extent, Internet access and Internet apps and services have become virtualized and software-enabled.

As a concrete example, Internet access no longer can be understood as “fixed” or “mobile,” but as a service that increasingly uses any available local access. That is what Wi-Fi offloading is all about, for example.

The conference was opened by Stephen Ho, PTC president & chair, as well as Anthony Rossabi, Telx EVP, Marketing, Sales & Strategy and Sharon Nakama, PTC CEO. The event was managed throughout by PTC conference coordinator Jacie Matsukawa.

Among the innovations already in motion for Spectrum Futures in 2016 is a major workshop on all the key methods of spectrum sharing that represent the next wave of spectrum licensing globally.

If you have ideas about content, format or people who should be invited to speak at the next edition–or what they should speak about–please contact us at spectrumfutures@ptc.org.