For telecom regulators and operators trying to make the most of a finite spectrum of airwaves that support global telecommunications, spectrum auctions have long been viewed as a tedious and resource-consuming part of the spectrum allocation process.
Fortunately, as this article will describe, a new and better platform is very much a reality.
Spectrum Auctions 101
Spectrum auctions are conducted to sell airwaves to operators, such as AT&T and Verizon, who provide wireless/mobile broadband services. Wireless airwaves in different frequency blocks build the foundation on which our wireless phones, and the growing number of mobile applications, work. Obviously, with the demand for such services being so high, airwaves are in great demand.
Regulators, such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States, sell airwaves to AT&T, Verizon and other operators using specific auction designs and formats. Regulators implement these auction rules to promote competition and innovation while reducing monopoly in the markets.
Reconfiguring the Spectrum Auction Platform
The spectrum auction platform forms the IT backbone for conducting spectrum auctions in a secure and reliable manner. Now, to the delight of auction-conducting regulators, Configurable Auction Platform Plus (CAP+) is making this IT backbone stronger and more flexible by providing the platform in a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.
CAP+ works with a range of auction designs and allows auction administrators to choose the auction activity and bidding rules. These configuration options make CAP+ a unique and innovative auction platform.
To support the stringent technical requirements for spectrum auction platforms, CAP+ utilizes many popular Amazon Web Services (AWS) tools:
- Elastic Beanstalk (EB) – Supports seamless application deployment and scalability utilizing auto scaling across multiple availability zones.
- Elastic Load Balancers (ELB) – Support reliability, availability and on-demand scaling to maintain balance across available resources.
- Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) – The front public-facing VPC is connected to the internet gateway and acts as a proxy to the internal private VPC where the auction platform is deployed. This provides a layer of security that keeps the public-facing infrastructure from containing any information about the private auction data or application.
- Relational Data Store (RDS) – CAP+ employs a MySQL RDS as the datastore. This provides a seamless replicate of the primary data server and supports mandatory reliability and high-availability requirements.
- AWS SQS – CAP+ utilizes AWS SQS to asynchronously communicate across the bidding and auction administration modules, capturing all key events in the auction. This feature also enables a time-based audit trail of all auction events.
- AWS Cloudwatch – AWS Cloudwatch supports scalability and event notification for CAP+. Cloudwatch monitors the load, volume and utilization of resources and scales the infrastructure on demand. In addition, Cloudwatch is configured to notify users of any critical alarms within the CAP+ infrastructure.
CAP+ utilizes AWS to eliminate the need for in-house IT support or acquisition of IT infrastructure and software. CAP+ also incorporates a configurable and adaptable set of auction designs and rules, which support most of the custom platforms used by regulators worldwide.
In addition, CAP+ on AWS provides a low-cost, service-based, on-demand auction platform that is available in a matter of minutes. Users benefit from the large cost savings offered by the CAP+ auction platform-as-a-service, paying only for what they use.
IT needs for high-stakes spectrum auctions must conform to a standard set of criteria including security, reliability, high availability, multi-factor authentication and audit trail. By utilizing AWS, CAP+ integrates these IT requirements into an auction platform that gives spectrum regulators a reliable and cost-effective new provisioning solution eliminating the need for IT backend support.
Looking to the future, CAP+ has the potential to make the spectrum allocation process a much more practical, repeatable and tested approach.
Brian Funk is the director of the agile and analytics sector for NCI, Inc., based in Reston, Virginia.