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Dr Holland wins Horizon 2020 Collaborative Spectrum Sharing Prize

Dr Oliver Holland from King’s College London’s Centre for Telecommunications Research has won the €500,000 Horizon 2020 Collaborative Spectrum Sharing Prize on behalf of King’s College London. Through a widely-publicised and popular competition, the European Commission decided to award €500,000 to a submission that showed new and innovative methods of spectrum access, re-use and sharing. The winning entry had to be a significant step forward from current technologies, be economically viable, and demonstrate clear experimental feasibility. Dr Holland led a team submitting to the prize, including Turku University of Applied Sciences in Finland, Fairspectrum in Finland, Queen Mary University of London in the UK, and a branch of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, based in Italy.


The use of wireless communications has increased dramatically in recent decades. A key limiting factor in the continued growth of the wireless industry is the availability of radio spectrum. The spectrum is already “reserved” by various services and users, even if it is not actually being used at many locations and times, especially “prime” spectrum that is both easily accessible (e.g., in terms of necessary antenna sizes) and that has good propagation characteristics. However, more spectrum is needed in order to make room for future wireless communications services and applications, such as 4k video distribution, augmented and virtual reality, and novel human interfaces like the ability to “touch” and manipulate remote objects (associated with the “tactile internet”— another area in which King’s has an internationally-leading reputation).

While the vast bandwidths associated with mm-wave spectrum being discussed for 5G will assist in achieving such services and applications, this extremely-high frequency spectrum must be backed by significant increases in availability and usage of lower-frequency prime spectrum—and this will be achieved through spectrum sharing. This need for enhanced lower-frequency spectrum backing is driven by poor or unpredictable propagation at mm-wave frequencies, and difficulties in coordination and management given, among other aspects. It is these realities that have driven the work at King’s College London on spectrum and spectrum sharing technology towards 5G.

One aspect of Dr Holland’s pioneering research at King’s College London focusses on the concept of database-driven spectrum sharing, which broadly assumes a regulatory or other authorised entity running a database containing information on available spectrum for sharing, or other data that can be used to derive that information. The spectrum prize submission led by Dr Holland, with thanks to Dr Stan Wong for his contributions, proposed and demonstrated a decentralised database, distributed across users’ mobile phones, tablets, laptops and other devices, able to achieve a more efficient use of the available spectrum. The proposed system has many benefits, not least in that it can be achieved and safely validated merely through the creation and certification of the end-users’ radio devices, with their distributed database elements being included as part of that certification.

“It was with pleasant surprise that we learned that our submission “DISTRIBUTE” has been awarded the H2020 Collaborative Spectrum Sharing Prize,” said Dr Holland. “We at King’s College London, as the leaders of the submission, would like to express our heartfelt thanks to the European Commission for their excellent insight and work in setting up and running this competition. Moreover, we would particularly like to acknowledge and thank our partners Turku University of Applied Sciences for their remarkable and fundamental contributions towards the submission, as well as Fairspectrum for their pioneering and ground-breaking work on spectrum sharing and vital contributions to the submission. We would also like to convey our thanks for the excellent work and vital inputs of the other contributors, namely, Queen Mary University of London and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission,” he continued.

Given that King’s College London has long-term plans to build on its work and contributions on spectrum sharing, this award presents an immense opportunity for the university. It will provide additional resource to allow the Centre for Telecommunications Research to undertake focussed work towards achieving breakthroughs in spectrum sharing technology. King’s is well positioned to maximise the impact of such work, being well connected with regulators and policy makers such as Ofcom in the UK, and the CEPT and the ITU, and undertaking leading roles in wireless communications standards.