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December 21, 2018

2018 Wireless Policies Set Stage for America’s 5G Readiness .

2018 Wireless Policies Set Stage for America’s 5G Readiness

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CTIA SVP Scott Bergmann
Scott Bergmann & Kelly Cole
Senior Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, & Senior Vice President, Government Affairs

2018 was a landmark year for U.S. wireless policy.

We started the year with no high-band auctions scheduled. We’re ending the year in the midst of the first-ever auction of millimeter wave spectrum with four more bands scheduled to be auctioned by the end of 2019.

This last year also saw the FCC take a significant step in streamlining the processes for siting wireless infrastructure, modernizing rules that are key to our 5G future.

For these steps, and many others, we’d like to take a moment to thank Chairman Pai and his fellow Commissioners, the Administration, and leaders in Congress for their commitment to wireless consumers and America’s global wireless leadership.

Let’s take a look at the highlights from 2018:

FCC Infrastructure Reforms Jumpstart 5G Deployment

The FCC took action this year to update existing wireless siting regulations to reflect the modern small cell infrastructure of the future.

In March, they reformed environmental and historic preservation reviews designed for large cell towers to match the needs of today’s widely deployed small cells. Updating these review requirements results in tremendous time and cost savings, spurring job creation and boosting network investment.

Thanks to the leadership of Commissioner Carr, the FCC voted in September to create national guideposts—including clear timelines and cost-based fees—around state and local siting practices, while protecting local communities’ rights to govern their property and recoup infrastructure-related costs. This modernization of the national wireless siting framework is a significant win for America’s economy and global leadership in 5G.

Reducing current timelines for 5G wireless infrastructure deployments by 12 months—through actions like these—is expected to unleash an additional $100 billion to the U.S. economy, according to an Accenture report released this year.

FCC Auctions First High-Band Spectrum

In February, the FCC announced the first two high-band auctions in the 28 and 24 GHz bands. In August, they followed that up with plans to auction additional high-band spectrum in the 37, 39 and 47 GHz bands by the end of 2019. High-band spectrum offers increased capacity, which will be key to providing 5G’s speed, low latency and power and fueling the Internet of Things.

Progress on Key Mid-Band Spectrum

In February, NTIA announced plans to study the possibility of using the 3450-3550 MHz band for commercial wireless use.

The FCC moved forward with a formal proposal in July to make spectrum in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band available for wireless. And in October, the FCC finalized targeted changes to the 3.5 GHz band, setting the agency on a clear path to unleash the first swath of mid-band airwaves in the U.S. Mid-band spectrum is considered a key building block for 5G networks, thanks to its unique abilities to both travel far and offer high capacity for mobile traffic.

Auction Authority on the Hill

In March, Congress passed key provisions from the RAY BAUM’s ACT and MOBILE NOW in a federal spending bill, enabling the FCC to hold future spectrum auctions and driving additional infrastructure and spectrum reforms.

Congress Introduces Plans for Spectrum Pipeline

Introduced with bipartisan support in the Senate and House, the AIRWAVES Act is a key piece of 5G legislation, set to unlock hundreds of MHz of new low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum. The AIRWAVES Act would both create a reliable, multi-year 5G spectrum pipeline and introduce a rural dividend that would help bridge the digital divide and connect more rural communities across the country.

States Move to Encourage 5G Investment and Deployment

Bringing the total to 21 states in two years, 2018 saw eight states enact bills to streamline the deployment of small cells. It’s these actions by community leaders and state policymakers and the competition they foster between states and localities that will help determine where 5G investment and next-generation networks come first.

We hope to see this strong commitment to U.S. wireless leadership carry into 2019 and beyond. We continue to encourage Congress, the FCC and the Administration to execute on high-band auctions, identify more bands for wireless and create a spectrum pipeline, freeing up 5G-ready spectrum—especially in mid-band—for commercial use.

The Administration has taken a commendable step in this direction with their announcement of plans for a national spectrum strategy and we look forward to working with them as they craft these policies.

We also hope to see Congress pick up where they left off and pass the AIRWAVES Act with bipartisan support.

With policies in place that help build a robust pipeline of licensed wireless spectrum, America’s wireless providers will invest hundreds of billions of dollars and create millions of jobs to deploy next-generation networks.

It’s been an exciting year for wireless technologies and policies and we look forward to what 2019 brings. Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season!

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