The Agency's technical research activity will continue into Ofcom, and we held liaison meetings with the other regulators this year to prepare for the transition.
The Engineering and Research Unit (ERU) managed a comprehensive research programme covering the Agency's present and future needs. Individual research projects included short- and long-term studies as well as research exploring the impact of emerging technologies on the radio spectrum.
Research was carried out mostly through external contracts with small and large companies and universities; it covered radiowave propagation, coexistence studies, spectrum efficiency and EMC issues, and new radio technologies. The results of many of these studies serve as inputs to ITU-R study groups and other national or international groups such as BSI, CENELEC, ETSI and CISPR.
The propagation element of our research programme now focuses on the higher frequency bands, where use is expected to increase because of congestion in the lower bands and the possible deployment of broadband applications. Studies in this area during 2002-03 investigated the use of higher frequencies, taking account of radiowave propagation's physical limitations, to provide more spectrum for conventional and innovative radio applications.
Considerable effort was also dedicated to measurement campaigns to support and enhance the Agency's radio frequency assignment tools. These focused primarily on establishing the reasons for higher-than-expected outages in terrestrial fixed links. The objective is to ensure that operators can achieve the service availability levels for which they have been licensed. To support navigation and satellite services, we began a measurement campaign to develop accurate earth-to-space prediction models for rain and cloud attenuation.
This year, ERU organised some public events as part of the Agency's research function. These were widely advertised, and were followed by articles in professional journals, raising the Agency's profile. A one-day meeting on ultra wide band (UWB) technology was very well attended, as was a two-day conference on use of the spectrum. Both meetings were held at the Institution of Electrical Engineers in London. The Radio Research Advisory Committee (RRAC) presented its second annual review to an Open Forum meeting in November 2002. A summary of the year's technical research was presented at this meeting, together with results arising from the Agency's task groups. (These groups, which meet about three times a year, comprise industrial and academic participants who have a joint interest in key radio technology areas.)
ERU is currently hosting two university placement students for 12 months between the second and third years of their undergraduate study. It also supports four postgraduate students through the CASE scheme, operated in conjunction with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
In addition to the Agency's technical research budget, the research element of the Spectrum Efficiency Scheme (SES) was approved by the Treasury in late 2002 for 12 months and a total value of up to £2.5 million. The Agency invited expressions of interest in the SES; the response provided additional research directions for consideration, and expanded our database of potential contractors and their competencies. The SES funding comes at a time when we are considering how to implement aspects of the Cave Review, which states that economic aspects of spectrum management must be considered in conjunction with the technical aspects. Because of the Cave Review, further technical research programmes will be needed to introduce new methods of spectrum management.
Topics submitted to the Agency through the SES included fixed wireless access rollout, dielectric antennas, spectrum sharing between independent networks, radar systems, UWB systems, optimum use of wireless local area networks (WLANs), protocol and propagation issues, frequency-selective structures, adaptive antennas, virtual antenna arrays and MIMO systems.
Much of ERU's work involves understanding the state of the art in radio and communications technology, and providing studies to support the introduction of new services and model their effects on existing services. Current projects support broadband access, software-defined radio, UWB, in-home communications, 3G services and beyond. ERU's research into the development and deployment of new and improved services will help to inform the UK Government and industry about spectrum needs tomorrow, when wireless devices will be even more important than they are today.
Ashwina Seerutun, a placement student in the Agency's Engineering and Research Unit, with John Mellish of the Radio Technology Compatibility Group