Getting the National Spectrum Strategy Right

It is without a doubt that the deployment of 5G will have a major impact on the country.

Not only is 5G faster (potentially even 100 times faster) than traditional 4G service, it will also bolster the United States’ global competitiveness and improve the standard of living. Almost all aspects of Americans’ lives—from medicine to transportation to manufacturing—will be impacted by the deployment of 5G.

The United States is a global leader in 5G. According to a recent CTIA report, the nation is tied for first with China in terms of 5G readiness, moving up two spots from last year’s ranking. America also leads the world with the most commercial 5G deployments of any nation; by the end of the year it will have 92 deployments, while South Korea (another major player in the race for 5G) will only have 48.

While the United States assigns the most low- and high-band spectrum for wireless, there is room for major improvement regarding mid-band spectrum assignment. For example, America currently has no mid-band spectrum available, while South Korea and China have 280 and 300 megahertz available, respectively.

In October 2018, President Trump signed a memo directing the development of a national spectrum strategy. Recognizing that 5G is crucial for the nation’s future success and feeling threatened by other countries (namely, China), some have pushed that the strategy follow a wholesale—essentially nationalized—approach to 5G. This is not the route America should take.

It is crucial that the United States adopt a strategy centered on free market principles—the same values that made the 4G rollout so successful. These free-market policies, such as exclusive use licenses and flexible use rights, will keep America the global leader in spectrum.

National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow spoke on this issue at CTIA’s 5G Summit in April, affirming that the private sector is ahead of government and always will be. Competition is the way to get to 5G, and China is not beating the United States. In his view, any assertion otherwise is “nonsense.”

The national spectrum strategy should maintain the United States’ position as a leader in spectrum while sparking innovation and economic growth. As such, this strategy should prioritize more auctions of low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum, which will boost businesses’—and subsequently consumers’—wireless access. It should also focus on ensuring that equipment can operate in multiple countries and the necessary infrastructure can be built. In addition, the government should modernize and streamline its policies and procedures to enable further growth and development.

Fortunately, the federal government has been making great strides towards 5G. The FCC has released its 5G FAST Plan, which strives to encourage private sector investment, update its policies, and make spectrum more widely available. In fact, the FCC has announced its largest spectrum auction ever will occur later this year. The Trump Administration has also prioritized 5G by encouraging private investment through its tax cuts and deregulation, in addition to releasing an official presidential memorandum.

Overall, 5G is the way of the future, and it’s imperative that the federal government create the best strategy to remain dominant during this digital revolution.

Author: Bethany Patterson

Photo credit: Christiaan Colen