Microsoft Opens Brussels Spectrum Usage Monitoring Site

Microsoft announced that it has opened a new spectrum observatory in Brussels, Belgium to provide data for basing policy decisions.

In announcing the site Microsoft stated: “The Spectrum Observatory has been developed to give regulators and policy makers access to the latest information on the usage of wireless spectrum. Most policy makers agree that the way spectrum has been allocated lies at the heart of the current spectrum shortage, but before making any significant changes to the underlying legislation they need information on how, when and which spectrum is being used.”

The spectrum observatory in Brussels joins U.S. observatories located in Redmond and Seattle, Wash. and in Washington, D.C. These observatories help collect and analyze spectrum usage data that can be used to guide decisions on which spectrum bands are “the most appropriate immediate targets for expanded spectrum sharing.”

The Spectrum Observatory draws on data collected from monitoring stations that use the RFeye device manufactured by CRFS in the United Kingdom. It’s able to scan the 30 MHz to 6 GHz spectrum every three seconds and measure the power of the signals observed. Information on the power spectral density are stored and processed for visualization through the Microsoft Azure Cloud platform.

Currently three visualizations are available: a spectrogram, occupancy chart and power density chart.

The nice thing about Microsoft’s Spectrum Observatories is that anyone can access the data! Visit

The Website is well designed, so you shouldn't have any problems in getting data if it’s available. I tried to create some charts from the Washington, D.C., observatory, but it appeared that no data was available after Jan. 23. I did generate a chart of spectrum usage in the 1700-2200 MHz band in the nation’s capitol during the week of Jan. 13 and it was easy to identify the most popular 2 GHz ENG channels. It was quite interesting to see that the highest occupancy of the 2 GHz band during inaugural week was close to 30 percent. This is surprisingly high, when you consider the intermittent nature of ENG transmissions.

Unfortunately, you have to use one of Microsoft's predefined bands to generate a chart, although their selections seem reasonable and the full range of spectrum is covered. As an example, you could analyze the usage of amateur radio bands in the 30 MHz to 6 GHz range. I'm going to do some more research on the CRFS RFeye device that Microsoft is using. This sort of data could be very useful for frequency coordinators.

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.