Spectrum Allocation

What Does Spectrum Allocation Mean?

Spectrum allocation is the process of regulating the use of the electromagnetic spectrum and dividing it among various and sometimes competing organizations and interests. This ensures that there is little competition when using a specific frequency band, which can cause interference if the same frequency band is used for different and unregulated purposes. This regulation is controlled by various governmental and international organizations.


Spectrum allocation is also known as frequency allocation.

Techopedia Explains Spectrum Allocation

Spectrum allocation came to be because of the emerging and convergence of wireless telecommunications technology which created huge demands on the radio frequency spectrum for various services such as high-speed data transfer and communication. Therefore, the purpose of various spectrum policies and laws is the regulation and management of the resource (the electromagnetic spectrum) for the benefit of everyone using it. This basically means that spectrum allocation is done to prevent major interference and chaos in the air waves, which would serve no one at all.

Imagine a four-lane road that is quite small for highway standards and that there is no regulation where different vehicles are allowed to travel in. Now, consider that there is a fleet of large trucks moving together and driving at a slower speed for safety. Without regulation on which lane they can drive in, the various members of this fleet of trucks would use all four lanes, effectively blocking all other vehicles. This causes all other vehicles behind to travel at speeds slower than or equal to those of the trucks since there is no way for them to pass. This is the purpose of spectrum allocation, to simply put everything in its place, in this case in a specific radio spectrum, to prevent interference and chaos.

Some standardization organizations working on spectrum allocation and regulation:

  • European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT)
  • International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
  • Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL)

Types of spectrum allocation:

  • No one may transmit — Spectrum band is reserved for a specific use such as radio astronomy so that there is no interference with radio telescopes
  • Anyone may transmit — As long as transmission power limits are respected
  • Only licensed users/organizations of the specific band may transmit — Examples are cellular and television spectrums as well as amateur radio frequency allocations

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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…