One of the biggest challenges facing spectrum regulators is the refarmation of spectrum. It is often difficult to reallocate to a different use frequencies which have been used for one purpose by one group of users for perhaps decades. The need for reallocation - known as reforming, often arises in several ways:
- The international table of frequency allocation has or is changing and the national table of frequency allocation should be realigned to be consistent with it
- A radio service may not have developed as expected, while the spectrum available for another service operating in nearby frequency band is insufficient to keep up with growing demand.
- New technologies become available which are more spectrum-efficient, allowing spectrum to be freed up either for the same use in that band or other uses
Various approaches exist now for re-farming whereby regulators (administrative) address the issues and where users determine the timing and price (market-driven). Some simply require the user to absorb the cost. In other cases, beneficiaries of the change are either invited or required t be reimburse all or part of the transition costs of the incumbent user.
One solution involves the regulator establishing a re-farming fund by setting aside a portion of spectrum revenues which are then used to compensate existing users transitioning to new spectrum and investing in replacement equipment.
Another solution involves setting on one of several options: partial release, full release, administrative re-assignment and market-based and using a portion of or all spectrum authorization revenue generated by new authorizations to compensate existing users.
The ITU occasionally identifies frequency bands needed in the future for the introduction of new services and technologies resulting in changes to allocations and band plans. Such plans are approved by the Frequency Management authorities which provides advance notice of the proposed to enable existing users’ time to plan and implement any consequent changes. Regulators neither renew licenses on expiry of the license period nor issue new licenses in the band for services / technology other than the planned one.