LSU, SIU Researchers Examine Better Spectrum Sharing Modeling

Xiangwei Zhou

September 20, 2023 

BATON ROUGE, LA – It may be taken for granted on a daily basis, but a worldwide increase in spectrum usage has made spectrum sharing an important economic topic. At the heart of that topic is ensuring that spectrum management mechanisms are efficient, fair, and maintain user privacy.

LSU Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Xiangwei Zhou is working with Alison Watts, professor of economics at Southern Illinois University, to create a mechanism that ticks all three of those boxes. Zhou will focus on the engineering constraints of spectrum sharing while Watts will contribute her expertise in microeconomics and game theory. The work is funded by a $300,000 National Science Foundation grant.

Spectrum sharing, as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, is a means of optimizing the use of airwaves, or wireless communications channels, by enabling multiple categories of users to safely share the same frequency bands. Smartphones, wearable devices, smart vehicles, and other devices all depend on the same wireless bands of the electromagnetic spectrum to transmit/receive data, voice, and images. One way to share the spectrum is to allow secondary users to dynamically utilize the spectrum when primary users are not using it at a particular time and location.

“An unlicensed secondary user can utilize the spectrum resources when a licensed user, also called a primary user, is absent or inactive,” Zhou said. “For example, IEEE 802.11af wireless local area network or 802.22 wireless regional area network devices, as secondary users, transmit on unused, either temporally or spatially, portions of TV channel band allocations, with the standards taking measures to limit interference for primary users, such as analog TV, digital TV, and wireless microphones.”

What Zhou and Watts propose is creating a mechanism that ensures users who value the spectrum the most end up with it; that collusion among secondary spectrum buyers is prevented, which could result in primary users being less willing to share or sell the spectrum; that similar spectrum users are treated equally; and users’ private information regarding location or pricing is not revealed, thereby preventing malicious attacks to broadband providers or consumers and avoiding broadband outages or interference.

“Although spectrum sharing brings many pragmatic advantages, it also raises potential privacy issues,” Zhou said. “For example, even though the spectrum coordination system does not disclose user location information, a user can use a series of query responses to infer the location of the other users. Location privacy-preserving level and spectrum efficiency are a paradox, since location obfuscation will render less available spectrum to share and thus, reduce the spectrum utility. Therefore, this tradeoff will be analyzed, and user coordination will be designed to achieve higher spatial spectrum utility while providing a privacy preservation guarantee.”

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