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December 21, 2019

2019: A Banner Year for Wireless .

2019: A Banner Year for Wireless

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Nick Ludlum
Senior Vice President & Chief Communications Officer

As I take stock of the year, it’s clear that 2019 has been full of big moments for the wireless industry—the first-ever high-band auctions, a rush of new 5G deployments, new 5G devices and innovations and the launch of new tools, resources and programs that benefit wireless consumers.

Let’s take a look at all the progress wireless has made in the last year.

Unlocking the spectrum we need.

Spectrum is the lifeblood of wireless networks, and more spectrum is needed to support the demand for wireless—Americans used 82 percent more mobile data in 2018 than in 2017, according to our annual survey.

So thank you to the President and the FCC for hearing this call: in April, the President declared from the White House that we would lead the world in 5G spectrum, while the FCC held auctions for 28 GHz, 24 GHz, 37, 39 and 47 GHz spectrum. This is the first time ever that three major spectrum auctions have been held in a calendar year.

Policymakers and industry have also been discussing our critical need for more mid-band spectrum for 5G networks. The FCC has scheduled the 3.5 GHz PAL auction to start in June 2020 and Chairman Pai announced his goal of auctioning the 3.7 GHz band before the end of next year. And NTIA and the FCC are taking steps to explore the potential for commercial operations in the lower 3 GHz band.

Deploying 5G far and wide.

Wireless companies have been innovating and investing for years in preparation for 5G. 5G networks are now live across the country thanks to the ambitious efforts of America’s wireless providers.

Forward-thinking policymakers helped speed up the deployment of 5G networks and bring new investment to their communities. The FCC laid the groundwork with new rules that went into effect this year, giving wireless providers a clear path forward and speeding up deployments in 2019. Seven additional states and Puerto Rico also removed barriers to 5G deployment this year by updating siting regulations to make the installation of wireless infrastructure less cumbersome.

Working together to help consumers.

The wireless industry collaborated on a variety of efforts to benefit consumers this year.

With the support of Congress and the FCC, wireless providers have been hard at work combatting illegal robocalls and educating consumers on available solutions. We profiled the laudable efforts of our members to combat illegal robocalls, and thanks to FCC action in June, wireless providers can now automatically block illegal robocalls by default. This week, Congress also took a big step forward in the fight against robocalls by passing the TRACED Act, which gives the wireless industry, the FCC and federal and state-level law enforcement more tools to combat unwanted and illegal calls.

Ahead of hurricane season, the wireless industry shared the story of how we prepare for a natural disaster or emergency with a new resource devoted to wireless network resiliency efforts and consumer tips about how to best use your cellphone in a crisis.

In this type of widespread emergency, Wireless Emergency Alerts are our most potent and effective alerting system. In 2019, thousands of WEA alert messages were sent by local public safety officials to warn and inform wireless customers about hurricanes and wildfires. We also gave the WEA system a serious upgrade with more features and geo-targeting capabilities to help local public safety officials keep us safe.

And recognizing that today, more people with disabilities rely on wireless than ever before, the industry updated AccessWireless.Org to help people of all different abilities, including older adults and veterans, find accessible wireless services and devices to meet their needs.

Sharing the wireless story.

In the Spring, the wireless ecosystem gathered for our 5G Summit, bringing policymakers like FCC Chairman Pai and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow together with business leaders to discuss the transformative power of next-gen wireless networks. The industry also hosted 5G Futures events with policymakers and community leaders in Houston, Denver, Minneapolis and Indianapolis to discuss how 5G will transform communities, jobs and the economy. And in October, nearly 22,000 people gathered in Los Angeles for Mobile World Congress Americas to discuss the issues impacting our industry and consumers.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a fireside chat with CTIA President & CEO Meredith Attwell Baker at the CTIA 5G Summit in Washington, D.C.
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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a fireside chat with CTIA President & CEO Meredith Attwell Baker at the CTIA 5G Summit in Washington, D.C.

Thinking wireless, end-to-end.

Companies from across the wireless industry worked together to launch multiple programs this year to support the aftercare and repair of devices, including new standards for grading devices and new certifications for service providers, retail stores and technician training under the new Wireless Industry Service Excellence (WISE) program.

If the past decade showed us the impact of 4G—from the power of mobile data to the growth of the app economy to new services and sectors like ridesharing—2020 is kicking off a very exciting decade with the promise of 5G’s revolutionary impact ahead. A new decade and a new generation of wireless—a great way to kick off the new year!

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