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December 21, 2017

2017 In Review: Continuing U.S. Wireless Leadership .

    2017 In Review: Continuing U.S. Wireless Leadership

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    CTIA SVP Scott Bergmann
    Scott Bergmann
    Senior Vice President, Regulatory Affairs

    Twelve months ago, we published our first blog of 2017. In it, we focused on an Accenture report that detailed how the wireless industry is projected to invest $275 billion to build 5G networks—creating three million new jobs and growing the economy by $500 billion.

    In that blog, we pointed out that smart wireless policies are needed to realize these 5G benefits. And we pledged to work together as an industry and with government to unlock the next generation of wireless.

    Since then, and with thanks to the leadership and vision of Chairman Pai and his fellow Commissioners, we’ve accomplished a good deal on behalf of mobile consumers, our industry, and the economy and set the stage for continued U.S. wireless leadership.

    Let’s take a look back at the highlights from 2017.

    Helping Ensure U.S. Leadership in 5G. As countries like China, South Korea, and Japan race to claim global leadership in 5G, the FCC took steps this year to encourage investment and ensure America’s wireless industry is better positioned to compete.

    The FCC began efforts to modernize infrastructure siting rules and pave the way for small cell antennas—the backbone of expanded 4G and future 5G networks—with its Wireless Infrastructure Deployment proposal in April, which offered solutions like updated timelines, new “deemed granted” provisions, and clarification on fees for a modern approach to historic preservation and environmental reviews.

    November’s Replacement Utility Poles Order simplified the deployment of infrastructure that merely replaces old facilities. And just last week, the FCC moved forward with making decades-old infrastructure—so-called “Twilight Towers”—available for streamlined attachments to support next-gen wireless services—a move that ended years of uncertainty and will eliminate the need for many new towers to be built.

    The FCC also recognized the need for more spectrum to support 5G networks. The agency began looking at mid-band spectrum in August. Two months later, the Commission sought input on new ways the 3.5 GHz band might be distributed, opening the door to greater investment in this critical swath of mid-band spectrum by making license terms longer and geographic license areas larger. And November’s High-Band Order took steps to ready for auction additional high-frequency spectrum that will help power 5G networks.

    Modernizing Outdated Rules and Regulations. The FCC also moved to modernize many of its rules that have become outdated and unnecessary. That matters because resources dedicated to complying with outdated regulations are resources not invested in wireless networks.

    Examples range from allowing device manufacturers to move from physical labels to electronic labels in July’s Equipment Authorization Order to further promoting flexible-use licensing policies in last week’s CMRS Presumption Order. The agency also reduced unnecessary regulations in its Part 43 Order and adopted a unified framework for all wireless radio services to enhance competition.

    Beyond updating outdated rules, the FCC took action to clear restrictive rules that were stifling investment, like with December’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order. Actions such as these allow wireless companies to innovate more freely in order to best meet the needs of their customers.

    Bringing Wireless to More Americans. Finally, the FCC took steps to move us closer to closing the digital divide. February’s Mobility Fund II Order will provide $453 million annually for 10 years to help wireless networks serve hard-to-cover areas. Combined with low-band spectrum sold in the world’s first ever incentive auction earlier this year, we’re bringing world-leading wireless networks to more Americans, wherever they live and work.

    And while we are grateful for all that has been accomplished in 2017, there is always more to do. As we look to next year, we encourage the FCC to continue promoting the rapid deployment of wireless networks starting with modernizing the state and local infrastructure siting process by adopting reasonable timelines for action, meaningful deemed granted remedies, and a cost-based approach to siting fees. We also hope to see the FCC clarify the process for Tribal reviews of wireless infrastructure siting on non-Tribal lands, initiate its first high-band auction, and take steps to make more mid-band spectrum available.

    That sounds like a pretty good list of resolutions for everything wireless in the new year. In the meantime, best wishes for a wonderful holiday season—see you in 2018!

     

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