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With the rapid deployment of new wireless devices and applications, the last decade has witnessed a growing demand for wireless radio spectrum. However, the fixed spectrum assignment policy becomes a bottleneck for more efficient spectrum utilization, under which a great portion of the licensed spectrum is severely under-utilized. The inefficient usage of the limited spectrum resources urges the spectrum regulatory bodies to review their policy and start to seek for innovative communication technology that can exploit the wireless spectrum in a more intelligent and flexible way. The concept of cognitive radio is proposed to address the issue of spectrum efficiency and has been receiving an increasing attention in recent years, since it equips wireless users the capability to optimally adapt their operating parameters according to the interactions with the surrounding radio environment. There have been many significant developments in the past few years on cognitive radios. This paper surveys recent advances in research related to cognitive radios. The fundamentals of cognitive radio technology, architecture of a cognitive radio network and its applications are first introduced. The existing works in spectrum sensing are reviewed, and important issues in dynamic spectrum allocation and sharing are investigated in detail.