What is wireless spectrum? Here’s what you should know.

Spectrum is real estate for the wireless economy and it has never been more important.

What is spectrum?

The radio frequency (RF) spectrum fuels all wireless communication — from your smartphone, to your home WiFi. All forms of modern communication work by sending radio signals over invisible airwaves called spectrum. Whether you recognize it or not, much of our daily lives revolve around the use of these signals that are imperceptible to the human eye. 

Wireless communication is made possible through a portion of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum that we call the RF spectrum. The RF spectrum is divided into frequency bands based on how they are used. These bands make up a small portion of the EM spectrum, and other portions of the EM spectrum include visible light, X-rays and more. Pictured below are the different frequency bands of the radio frequency spectrum with some of their uses.

The illustration above shows the different radio frequency bands with some of their uses.

Click here to see a full infographic on wireless spectrum. 


Spectrum is a limited resource in high demand

But there’s a catch — only a certain number of frequency bands exist, and there are limits to their usage. To further complicate the situation, some of these frequency bands are in much higher demand than others because they enable greater amounts of data to be transmitted, or they allow signals to propagate farther. This means that wireless operators, television broadcasters, and many others are eager to secure the ideal spectrum licenses for their technology. 

The rapid emergence of the gig economy, the IoT (internet of things), and the standardization of remote work has created additional demand for spectrum that our society’s current infrastructure cannot support. This is problematic for a number of reasons. 

With a limited number of frequency bands in existence, it is critical that they are used efficiently. If too many signals are sent over a certain frequency, it will result in major interference and disrupted communication. 

All of these factors combined have made efficient management of wireless spectrum incredibly important.

Spectrum Management and Licensing 

In the United States, the government owns spectrum and is responsible for efficiently licensing the resource across public and private entities. The FCC and NTIA host auctions to allow companies to bid for spectrum licenses. This gives cellular carriers, TV broadcasters, satellite operators and many other organizations the opportunity to place bids, and gain usage rights to certain frequency bands. 

$ 0 billon
The total amount spent by bidders at the most recent C-band auction by the FCC.

Why is it important to measure spectrum? 

Measuring and monitoring spectrum allows us to better understand and make efficient use of this scarce commodity. There are still many unknown factors about spectrum and how to effectively share this scarce resource. 

The demand for wireless spectrum has skyrocketed due to the emergence of new and diverse technologies across industries. With the demand outweighing the current available supply of certain spectrum bands, a cohesive and accurate understanding of the radio frequency spectrum has never been more necessary.

At Aurora Insight, we’re on a mission to enable greater connectivity by creating accurate and actionable information for the wireless ecosystem. This starts by measuring, analyzing and understanding the wireless spectrum environment through cutting-edge innovation and collaboration. 

Heres what we do at Aurora Insight:

Wifi Tower signal

Measure spectrum

Combining patented ground, aircraft and satellite-based sensors, we accurately measure the radio frequency spectrum, and network deployments around the globe. 


Analyze data

Using advanced data processing and machine learning, we analyze data on infrastructure deployment, network operators, their coverage, efficiency, bandwidth use and more.


provide Solutions

We turn complex data analysis into solutions, enabling organizations to plan, invest and grow with confidence as they navigate the ever-changing radio frequency spectrum environment. 

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