Math behind spectrum reallocation

DIG IT AWARD FINALIST: Big Data, Analytics and Visualization

Math behind spectrum reallocation

There’s a lot at stake in the Federal Communications Commission’s two-sided incentive auction that will repurpose UHF TV broadcast spectrum for wireless telecommunications. And the mathematical calculations involved are immense. To ensure accuracy -- and  make the world’s largest reverse and forward auction possible -- the FCC created the Auction Optimization Model.

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AOM helps the FCC with repacking, the process by which the commission assigns stations a new channel in the UHF band to clear a portion for wireless licenses. Once AOM determines the new assignment, FCC officials know how much spectrum can be repurposed for wireless licenses that will be sold in the forward auction of the two-sided sale, FCC’s Melissa Dunford told GCN.

“The AOM solves a class of problems that is called NP-complete and is theoretically unsolvable in human time,” said Dunford, who is director of systems and math optimization for FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force. “However, with a lot of dedicated servers, clever heuristics developed by the team and our novel distributed strategy, not only are we able to solve it but we are able to determine an optimal solution 97 percent of the time.”

AOM has been deployed to 15 cloud-based clusters consisting of 175 large instance servers. The model has three components. The Constraint Generator converts large engineering data outputs to mathematical constraints so that it can model interference between two TV stations. Then the Clearing Target Optimization Tool’s 15 mathematical optimization models repack TV stations into a reduced band while minimizing placement to channels that would interfere with future wireless licenses. Lastly, the Final Channel Assignment Tool produces the channel assignment that broadcast stations will transition to when the incentive auction ends.

AOM is enabling the FCC to hold the world’s first two-sided auction, and it promises to change the way spectrum is allocated  in a broadband-hungry world.

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.


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