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Spectrum Auctions: Yesterday's Heresy, Today's Orthodoxy, Tomorrow's Anachronism. Taking the Next Step to Open Spectrum Access


  • Noam, Eli


The auction paradigm for spectrum allocation has moved from heresy to orthodoxy, but like its predecessors it will not be the end of history. A better alternative, not driven by the revenue needs of government, is license-free spectrum. Users would gain entry to frequency bands on a pay-as-you-go basis, instead of controlling a slice of the spectrum. They would transmit their content together with access tokens. These tokens are electronic money. Access prices would vary with congestion, set by automatic clearinghouses of spectrum users. Spot and futures markets for spectrum access would emerge. Once technology and economics can solve the interference problem in ways other than exclusivity, the question arises whether the right to use the spectrum for electronic speech is the government's to sell in the first place. Copyright 1998 by the University of Chicago.

Suggested Citation

  • Noam, Eli, 1998. "Spectrum Auctions: Yesterday's Heresy, Today's Orthodoxy, Tomorrow's Anachronism. Taking the Next Step to Open Spectrum Access," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(2), pages 765-790, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:41:y:1998:i:2:p:765-90

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Melody, William H, 1980. "Radio Spectrum Allocation: Role of the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(2), pages 393-397, May.
    2. Jeffrey K. MacKie-Mason & Hal Varian, 1994. "Economic FAQs About the Internet," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(3), pages 75-96, Summer.
    3. Zupan, Mark A, 1989. "The Efficacy of Franchise Bidding Schemes in the Case of Cable Television: Some Systematic Evidence," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(2), pages 401-456, October.
    4. Shelanski, Howard A & Huber, Peter W, 1998. "Administrative Creation of Property Rights to Radio Spectrum," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(2), pages 581-607, October.
    5. Crandall, Robert W, 1998. "New Zealand Spectrum Policy: A Model for the United States?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(2), pages 821-840, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. El-Moghazi, Mohamed & Whalley, Jason & Irvine, James, 2017. "The Future of International Radio Regulations: Transformation Towards Sharing," 28th European Regional ITS Conference, Passau 2017 169457, International Telecommunications Society (ITS).
    2. McAfee, R. Preston & Miller, Alan D., 2012. "The tradeoff of the commons," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(3), pages 349-353.
    3. Cave, Martin & Webb, William, 2012. "The unfinished history of usage rights for spectrum," Telecommunications Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 293-300.
    4. Fulvio Minervini & Diego Piacentino, 2007. "Spectrum Management and Regulation: Towards a Full-Fledged Market for Spectrum Bands?," Working Papers 07-2007, Macerata University, Department of Studies on Economic Development (DiSSE), revised Nov 2008.
    5. Kenneth R. CARTER, 2013. "Next Generation Spectrum Regulation:Price-Guided Radio Policy," Communications & Strategies, IDATE, Com&Strat dept., vol. 1(90), pages 41-62, 2nd quart.
    6. Gary Madden & Aaron Morey & Erik Bohlin, 2012. "Regulator Incentives and Third Generation National Mobile Telecommunications Market Entry," Chapters,in: Regulation and the Performance of Communication and Information Networks, chapter 11 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    7. repec:spr:infosf:v:10:y:2008:i:1:d:10.1007_s10796-007-9056-1 is not listed on IDEAS

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