Q&A with Dr. Abhaya Sumanasena – Head of Policy and Regulation
How does your prior work experience relate to this position?
Over the past 20 years, I have worked within the R&D, Operator, Vendor, Regulator, and Consultancy sectors. So I have hands-on experience working with many different parts of the industry. While working, I have seen many issues from different angles and helped to find solutions.
Recently, the UK Spectrum Policy Forum (UK SPF) appointed me as Chairman. The UK SPF is a sounding board for the UK Government and Ofcom on future spectrum policy issues. In this role, I prioritise industry interests and challenges through board discussions and lead engagements with stakeholders at all government levels, including the Minister responsible.
I use my extensive industry experience to provide thought leadership, find innovative, cost-efficient solutions to wireless connectivity problems and help develop spectrum strategies and policies in various markets.
What do you see as the most significant challenges and opportunities facing the wireless industry today?
Regulation and policymaking are not straightforward. Technically sound, legally robust, and economically viable policymaking requires balancing these three essential areas and diverse skills. Amongst other areas, spectrum policy is one key area we focus on.
Other key challenges faced by the industry include:
- Carrying out use case analysis and demand assessments for different services, technology mapping and spectrum allocation at the ITU level.
- Ensuring spectrum is put to the highest value use and users.
- Developing sound arguments for robust policymaking at a national level to estimate the fair and economic value of spectrum with the advancement of new technologies.
- Developing the least restrictive and realistic licensing conditions based on an in-depth analysis of practical co-existence scenarios.
- Identifying NTN’s role in providing ubiquitous coverage with IMT systems and frequency coordination of new LEO-based satellite systems.
Technology is evolving fast, so adapting regulation and policymaking to meet the requirements for the next decade with new thinking is critical.
These are complex issues that require niche skills that are hard to find. That’s where the Real Wireless team can help.
What have been your most successful or interesting projects for RW so far and why?
Some of our recent successful projects include:
- Office of the Quartet (OQ) used our analysis of spectrum requirements for the next decade to negotiate spectrum positions for the country.
- We conducted interference analysis among many systems and developed practical mitigation techniques and regulatory restrictions for a global Satellite company to get regulatory approvals.
- Several regulators (i.e. Ofcom, ComReg, RTR, ICASA) used our detailed cost of coverage and technical analysis to determine the reserve prices, develop rules for spectrum auctions, and a foundation for their policymaking.
- A mobile operator used our analysis to successfully acquire spectrum at the reserve price in a spectrum auction.
- A service provider used our independent assessment to convince the UK regulator to vary licensing conditions to deploy 4G/5G technologies in a band restricted to 2G.
What’s your vision for the next five years?
My vision is simply to solve our client’s most significant problems related to wireless, policy, and regulation, and create value.
As trusted advisors, the Real Wireless team can structure client problems, and create logical narratives to articulate convincing solutions with evidence-based presentations. One of my priorities is to also coach and build teams to deliver complex regulatory or policy-related projects for clients, by structuring and defining clear objectives and desired outcomes.
What advice would you give to somebody at the start of their career thinking about going into the wireless industry?
The wireless industry is really exciting and the most happening industry. Wireless communications are critical in generating value for citizens and consumers and maintaining societal, economic, and environmental sustainability. It has become increasingly important in the design criteria for developing future technologies, along with the UN SDGs framework. However, you can’t treat these in isolation. We need to identify synergies or create clear connections between them. For that, we need an open mindset and fresh thinking blended with experience. So, there are ample opportunities for newcomers.
Be independent and trustworthy. Go the extra mile and make a difference. These values will help anyone succeed and are also Real Wireless’s core values.