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Whitepaper: What does the UK need to do to pursue its spectrum resilience objectives?


Dr. Anil Shukla

Radio spectrum access is critical. It underpins the UK’s economy and provides significant social value through the range of applications it supports.

image depicting electronic lock with binary digits with electronic circuitry and electricity flowing

Radio spectrum access is critical, underpins the UK’s economy and provides significant social value through the range of applications it supports. It is, therefore, part of the UK’s (soft) infrastructure and the access to it should be resilient and appropriate spectrum protection measures should be implemented by businesses and users. It is UK Government policy to have resilience in its Critical National Infrastructure, however, as spectrum access is pervasive, there is also a need to ensure that other key systems and services, in an increasingly integrated and interdependent society, are resilient.

This white paper, based on the outcomes of two UK Spectrum Policy Forum (SPF) workshops, first outlines the broad need for resilient systems and provides two examples that illustrate the potential ripple or cascade effects that disruptive effects could cause. These demonstrate the need to conduct system level testing to ensure that unexpected (ripple or cascade) effects can be understood and mitigated.

Traditionally cyber security is described as an information management problem. However, as the digital economy is underpinned by spectrum access, cyber security must include both information security and spectrum (electromagnetic) security. This latter security could be termed cyber-spectrum security. Disruptions, via spectrum denial, have been reported for a wide range of systems. It is predicted, however, that these disruptions will increase due to a range of factors such as the easy availability of complex technology and the increasing interconnectivity of radio systems used to provide complex services. As the societal reliance on spectrum increases, appropriate cyber-spectrum security measures are needed.

To develop resilient systems an integrated strategy is required and cyber-spectrum measures must make their own contribution to the integrated approach. Unless appropriate cyber-spectrum protection measures are taken, spectrum denial or interference could be an easy axis to maximise disruptive effects.

A key element in developing resilient system is user-awareness. To enable users to integrate cyber-spectrum plans with their information cyber security plans a number of recommendations are made. These include; users being able to conduct regular, systems level spectrum-stress tests in operational environments to understand their risk; UK Governments Common Cyber Effects document being upgraded to include cyber-spectrum effects; increasing consumer choice and raising awareness by radio system and service providers creating Gold, Silver and Bronze spectrum resilience frameworks; and the effective management of over the counter interference and jamming system.

Notes: A QinetiQ team, led by one of our Fellows, Dr Anil Shukla, wrote this white paper for the UK Spectrum Policy Forum. The UK Spectrum Policy Forum was launched at the request of Government as the industry sounding board to Government and Ofcom on future spectrum management and regulatory policy with a view to maximising the benefits of spectrum for the UK. The Forum is open to all organisations with an interest in using spectrum and already has over 150 member organisations. A Steering Board performs the important function of ensuring the proper prioritisation and resourcing of our work. techUK facilitates the UK Spectrum Policy Forum. It represents the companies and technologies that are defining today the world we will live in tomorrow. More than 950 companies are members of techUK. Collectively they employ approximately 800,000 people, about half of all technology sector jobs in the UK. These companies range from leading FTSE 100 companies to new innovative start-ups.