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Recently, CNN reported on work at the U.S. Federal Communications Com mission (FCC) to free up portions of unused radio spectrum to address the challenges that wireless service operators are facing from the ever growing demand from customers for faster wireless service . Effectively answering these challenges requires not only making new spectrum available but also state-of-the-art radio transceiver technology to enable effective and efficient access to this spectrum. Perhaps the technology that has received the most attention in this regard is cognitive radio. In this article, we highlight the role that signal processing can play in improving the performance of increasingly adaptive and heterogeneous communications systems.