Panel Concludes Spectrum Policy Playbook in Need of an Update

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Demand for spectrum continues to explode. Because of this, Acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel says we can’t keep doing things the same way we have for years, according to FCC Acting Chief Counsel Umair Javed. He spoke during the 10th Americas Spectrum Management Conference on Tuesday.

Noting Rosenworcel embraced the concept that the answer to the spectrum challenge uses new tools, he says she believes, “no single entity can meet this challenge alone. There needs to be a ‘whole of government’ approach.” That includes updating the spectrum policy playbooks for 5G. The FCC is accomplishing this by putting rules in place to secure network communications and make spectrum more available, he said.  

CTIA SVP/General Counsel Tom Power said wireless networks have shown their strength during COVID. “According to the Boston Consulting Group, 5G will be central to the nation’s economic recovery. But this doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Spectrum policy is critical.”  

Power complimented Rosenworcel for “putting the pedal to the metal on this auction,” referring to Auction 110. He was glad to hear her comments to the show Tuesday on the lower 3 GHz spectrum.

Derek Khlopin, Senior Advisor, Office of the Assistant Secretary for NTIA, said the costs of relocating spectrum incumbents are increasing. Piggybacking on that thought, Javed said prices for spectrum in general and reserve prices are trending up. “Is that sustainable?” he asked, stressing that, the quality of service and investments “needs focus.”

Satellite Industry Association President Tom Stroup said only 10 percent of the Earth’s surface has access to terrestrial connectivity. “Broadband is one of the fastest components of the [satellite] industry.” He emphasized satellite’s ability to provide broadband service “in days, rather than digging trenches,” for fiber.

“Direct satellite to handset connectivity will greatly expand mobile systems. We have the ability to do RF monitoring from space. All of these services require spectrum,” Stroup said.

The C-band auction and the rules leading up to that showed using spectrum compression technologies have an advantage, Stroup noted. “But, it’s complex. In the past, the satellite industry has said ‘no, we won’t share spectrum.’” But he stressed sharing what it has is tough. “It’s not like we’re sitting on a bunch of bands that can easily be repurposed for other uses!”

Alex Roytblat, Vice President, Worldwide Regulatory Affairs, WiFi Alliance, called the FCC’s opening of 6 GHz “transformative. Over 50 countries have followed the FCC’s lead on 6 GHz.” He called that “unprecedented” and said it underscores the significance of the decision. However, other countries are moving beyond the FCC decision by allowing highly portable devices on the band, which Roytblat called the next step in enabling advances like IoT and telemedicine.

Regarding the administration’s slowness in naming permanent leaders for the FCC and NTIA, Khlopin rejected the idea, noting that NTIA is an advisor to the administration that  communicates with the White House on a near daily basis. Stroup chimed in, saying: “Both agencies have been getting a lot done under extraordinary circumstances. The White House has a lot on its plate right now.” Recent comments from Rosenworcel and Acting NTIA Administrator Evelyn Remaly “make me think we’re going to be okay.”

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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