Feds, Industry Work Towards More Spectrum-Sharing


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Members of a federal government panel speaking Tuesday at the Spectrum Policy Symposium of the National Information and Telecommunications Administration made it clear agencies are serious about relying on innovation and collaboration with the private sector to help achieve current and future goals. Speakers taking part in a subsequent industry panel were glad to hear that, especially as 5G stakeholders look for more and more spectrum to re-purpose or share for 5G services.

Chris Szymanski, Director of Product Marketing and Government Affairs, Wireless Connectivity Combo Division, Broadcom, pointed to a Cisco conclusion that the lion’s share of internet traffic goes over WiFi. 

“Demand will increase with 5G. We don’t have enough unlicensed spectrum to keep up with demand,” he said. Noting that the U.S. has always led on spectrum policy, Szymanski emphasized “The 5.9 and 6 GHz bands are exactly the right frequencies to focus on. But time is of the essence.”

Szymanski said spectrum policies built on old legacy equipment should be revisited. SpaceX Director of Satellite Policy David Goldman agreed, suggesting that in the future, spectrum won’t just be allocated for one use, but multi-use. Maybe it’s best “to put the brakes on a little bit” as a technology is developing, he said. Though Goldman was not suggesting the country stop technology development. “I think we want to get this out as fast as we possibly can, but I think there is an amount we should understand how the technology works before we start limiting uses,” Goldman clarified. 

5G is rolling out much, much faster than 4G did, according to Qualcomm SVP Spectrum Strategy & Technology Policy Dean Brenner. “When we launched 4G there was one [compatible] device for quite some time. “All of our chips for 5G support 6 GHz frequencies and mmWave. We’re working on next-gen 5G chipsets, including antenna modules. Initially we didn’t think 5G would work for phones, because too many antennas were needed. “Now, devices have many antenna elements,” he said.   

The mobile industry has achieved greater use of spectrum over the last decade, noted AT&T VP Federal Regulatory Hank Hultquist. “Refarming” is one way of carving out more spectrum, he said. Getting more use out of spectrum, “depends on good public policy,” he added, pointing to the broadcast incentive auction and the CBRS work as examples.

AT&T has launched mobile 5G in parts of 21 cities and intends to be nationwide by the end of 2020.

Dave Wright is Director, Regulatory Affairs & Network Standards, CommScope. He’s also the head of the CBRS Alliance. Soon, new CBRS users will depend on dynamic spectrum sharing to use the band without interfering with incumbent Naval radar systems on the coasts.  

Wright called repurposing spectrum using dynamic spectrum sharing “hugely important” to deploying 5G services where 4G is operating. “There’s a real focus on — of course, on the sharing between federal and non-federal [users], but also on automation, making more intensive and efficient use of spectrum going forward. We’re very keen to see how we can take what we have done with CBRS and extend that into the future,” said Wright, with the goal of making more intensive and efficient use of spectrum as a country. (For more on CBRS, see other stories below.)

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

September 11, 2019

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