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February 5, 2019

More Mid-Band Spectrum is Key to U.S. 5G Leadership .

More Mid-Band Spectrum is Key to U.S. 5G Leadership

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Scott Bergmann & Kelly Cole

Tomorrow, the U.S. Senate is holding a hearing on 5G. Titled “Winning the Race to 5G and the Next Era of Technology Innovation in the United States,” the hearing reflects the bipartisan consensus that it’s critical for our country to lead in the next generation of wireless connectivity.

Robust 5G networks will need large swaths of mid-band spectrum, airwaves with the ability to provide an ideal mix of coverage and capacity. Two reports released today make clear that making mid-band spectrum available must be a top U.S. priority.

America’s Mid-Band Deficit. In a review of mid-band spectrum plans in 13 nations around the world, Analysys Mason found that on average, other countries will make over four times more licensed mid-band spectrum available than the U.S. by the end of 2020.

China, for example, has plans to release more than seven times more mid-band spectrum (over 500 MHz). Japan plans to make 10 times more mid-band available. And countries like South Korea, the U.K., Australia, Italy and Spain are also ahead of us, having already auctioned or otherwise made hundreds of megahertz of mid-band available.

The reality is that right now, America’s wireless providers do not have access to mid-band spectrum—and carriers in other countries do. That must change.

The Economic Impact of Mid-Band Moving quickly to free up more mid-band spectrum will also spark our country’s economy. According to an Analysis Group report released today, making 400 MHz of mid-band spectrum available for commercial 5G networks will add $274 billion to the U.S. economy and create over 1.3 million new jobs.

The good news is that the U.S. is making some strides on mid-band. FCC Chairman Pai’s 5G FAST Plan is focused on key mid-band targets. The FCC finalized rules last fall for the 3.5 GHz auction, which will lead to 70 MHz of licensed spectrum being auctioned soon. And the right policy proposals are on the table: the Commission is considering repurposing up to 500 MHz in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, and NTIA is reviewing how the 3.45 GHz band can be used for 5G services.

According to an Analysis Group report, making 400 MHz of mid-band spectrum available for commercial 5G networks will add $274 billion to the U.S. economy and create over 1.3 million new jobs.
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According to an Analysis Group report, making 400 MHz of mid-band spectrum available for commercial 5G networks will add $274 billion to the U.S. economy and create over 1.3 million new jobs.

Now we need action. Just as the FCC has developed an aggressive schedule of auctions for high-band spectrum, policymakers now can work together to put into place a robust pipeline of mid-band spectrum.

In the past year, America’s wireless industry has invested significantly to accelerate the arrival of 5G networks, equipment, handsets and devices—helped by key policy reforms in that time. We’re not taking our foot off the gas, and neither should policymakers. Our industry needs more spectrum—particularly mid-band—and a timetable of when those airwaves will become available.

And Congress can help. Last year, a bipartisan bill—the AIRWAVES Act– set a timeline for auctioning a series of key low-, mid- and high-band frequencies over the next five years.

As our CEO Meredith Attwell Baker will testify tomorrow, “AIRWAVES remedies the mid-band deficit by providing access to the same spectrum bands that are being made available throughout Asia and Europe.  By matching up our mid-band spectrum with global bands, we unlock economies of scale and reduce the costs—and time— to deploy.”

Notably, the AIRWAVES Act would also set aside 10 percent of the proceeds from new spectrum auctions for deploying wireless networks in rural America.  If this provision had been in place during the AWS-3 and broadcast incentive auctions, this rural dividend would have made available an additional $6 billion to build out wireless in rural America and unserved communities.

With other nations already releasing large swaths of mid-band spectrum and with real positive economic impact at stake, the time is now for Congress and the FCC to act. Let’s take these efforts across the finish line and ensure America’s global wireless leadership in 5G.

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