Wireless Industry Adapts to Pandemic Needs

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The wireless industry is adaptable, contributing to why networks have held up well during the pandemic, panelists agreed during an opening session of the Americas Spectrum Management Conference, Monday.

CTIA SVP Regulatory Affairs Scott Bergmann said private investment and a flexible regulatory framework have enabled strong and resilient networks. The industry adapted quickly to “the new normal,” he said, and supported efforts to keep consumers connected.

As many people shifted to working from home, “all of a sudden, every interaction with my team happened on this device,” said Bergmann, referring to his cell phone. Continued U.S. focus on spectrum and infrastructure policy is critical to wireless leadership and resiliency, he added.  

In the early days of the pandemic, the FCC granted Special Temporary Authority (STA) to various organizations so they could use spectrum to bolster online learning, telehealth and other COVID-related uses. Many of those STAs are still in effect, said FCC Chief of Staff Mathew Berry.

The agency was monitoring network resiliency closely in the early days of the pandemic, said Berry. “When you see such enormous shifts in usage patterns, you do hold your breath a bit to see what’s going to happen.” He agreed with Bergmann that much of how well the networks have performed had a lot to do with regulatory frameworks the Commission had in place, as well as the efforts of the wireless carriers, and the spectrum the FCC provided.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai kicked off the show by listing all the spectrum the Commission has auctioned for wireless use. An auction of the lower portion of the C-band is still on-track to begin this December; the agency plans four spectrum auctions in 2021. He also cited the agency’s efforts to promote deployment of wireless infrastructure and modernizing regulations to encourage more fiber deployment.

The show continues through Friday. Click here to register. 

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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