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David Redl: Stepping Stones to a 5G Future

David Redl, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, NTIA

The futuristic connected technologies showcased at CES 2018 were dazzling in their possibility, and highlighted the demand for robust and ubiquitous wireless networks. Access to high-speed connectivity has driven economic growth and innovation in this country and around the world, and with the advent of 5th generation wireless systems, we’re poised to take another leap. The deployment of 5G will mean signifi cant speed upgrades, facilitating growth of Internet of Things applications, self-driving cars, connected homes and improvements in health care monitoring, and inventions yet to be devised.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) plays a key role in pushing America’s 5G leadership forward. We support national and international efforts to harmonize spectrum and set technology standards, and work with industry to help remove obstacles to deploying the network infrastructure needed for 5G to flourish. We’ve been looking at bands up and down the frequency allocation chart to identify options for meeting these needs. Our extensive experience in working with government agencies will help streamline the process for assessing which bands can be opened up — from the millimeter wave range all the way down to the low bands — for commercial uses. 

Up high in the millimeter wave range, NTIA continues to support the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Spectrum Frontiers proceeding by collaborating on an approach for sharing between federal and non-federal users in the 37 gigahertz band. If we get this right, it could serve as a model to inform how sharing might be done in other millimeter wave bands. In the mid-band range, NTIA is working with the FCC, the Department of Defense and the wireless industry to support the introduction of the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in the 3.5 GHz band. 

NTIA, the FCC and DoD meet regularly with WinnForum to establish the standards and certification process that will help define the protection of federal radar systems — an essential step to getting CBRS off  the ground. The 3.5 GHz model demonstrates how we can move toward more dynamic sharing, even as we continue to protect key government systems that are vital for national security and other public services. The collaborative work in the 3.5 GHz process points toward a promising future for managing our nation’s spectrum resources. 

In the low-band, the Spectrum Pipeline Act requires NTIA to identify for auction 30 megahertz of federal spectrum below 3 GHz by 2022, and to identify an additional 100 megahertz beyond that. As part of this effort, NTIA, along with the Office of Management and Budget and the FCC, has been evaluating proposed “pipeline plans” that have been submitted by federal agencies. If approved, funding is made available for the agencies to research ways that might free up spectrum by combining operations or otherwise using spectrum more efficiently and effectively. 

On the international front, NTIA closely coordinates with federal agencies in preparation for key international spectrum negotiations and standards-setting activities. This includes intergovernmental participation in the International Telecommunication Union, which will hold a World Radiocommunication Conference next year in Geneva, Switzerland, to examine harmonization of spectrum for AWS in the millimeter wave bands, as well as for the operation of unlicensed radio local area networks — think Wi-Fi — in the 5 GHz band. 

Even as demand for 5G infrastructure grows, many areas in the U.S. still don’t have the foundational broadband infrastructure needed to compete in a 21st century economy. We need to do everything we can to encourage infrastructure development. One way to do this: Congress and the executive branch can work with private industry to look at how federal action might address the patchwork of permitting, siting and other regulatory provisions, in order to potentially streamline or eliminate any rules that pose unnecessary barriers to deployment. 

NTIA also is committed to boosting deployment by actively reducing barriers to deployment on public lands and in governmentowned buildings, a target goal in President Trump’s recent Executive Order and Presidential Memo. I am passionate about spectrum policy — the next generation of wireless connectivity is poised to unlock fantastic innovations and life-changing technologies, and America has been leading the way when it comes to developing 5G. We must do everything we can this year and beyond to accelerate America’s 5G leadership.

David Redl, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, NTIA