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May 30, 2018

The Time has Come for Action on the 3.5 GHz Band .

The Time has Come for Action on the 3.5 GHz Band

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

It’s been over five years since the FCC first proposed to make up to 150 MHz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band available for commercial wireless use.

Some things have stayed the same in those sixty-six months: LeBron is still in the NBA Finals, for instance. Some things have changed: The Caps are—finally!—in the Stanley Cup Finals. #ALLCAPS

In the wireless world, things have changed dramatically. At the turn of the decade, America’s wireless industry led the world in deploying 4G and began investing hundreds of billions of dollars to bring high-speed mobile broadband to 99.7 percent of Americans. Today, we’re on the cusp of the next-generation of wireless, 5G, and other countries like China and South Korea are doing everything they can to seize our wireless leadership.

That’s why we asked the FCC today to move this July to bring the 3.5 GHz band to market, with an auction next year—and do so with investment-friendly rules.

The Importance of Mid-Band

The 3.5 GHz band will be the first mid-band spectrum available 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.

While America’s wireless industry is a global leader in 5G investment, we lag behind other countries on the spectrum necessary for 5G—particularly mid-band spectrum.

In fact, on mid-band spectrum availability, the U.S. ranks sixth of ten countries recently ranked on their 5G readiness.

That’s not where we want to be as the global race to 5G heats up. The time has come for action. 

The U.S. is lagging behind our international peers on mid-band spectrum. By the end of 2018, the U.S. is expected to rank sixth out of ten countries in terms of mid-band availability.
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The U.S. is lagging behind our international peers on mid-band spectrum. By the end of 2018, the U.S. is expected to rank sixth out of ten countries in terms of mid-band availability.

Global Competitors Seizing the Opportunity

Don’t just take our word for it. Look at what other countries are doing:

  • China has already released 100 MHz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz range.
  • South Korea is awarding nationwide 3.5 GHz spectrum licenses next month.
  • Italy will hold auctions for mid-band spectrum at 3.6-3.8 GHz this September.
  • Japan is expected to release spectrum nationwide in the 3.6-4.2 GHz range within the next ten months.

America can’t afford to be left behind. Winning the 4G race boosted our economy by $100 billion and led to an 84% increase in wireless-related jobs.

And while U.S. wireless providers are already leading the world in private 5G investment, the full scope of 5G’s economic impact will be significant: $500 billion in GDP and 3 million new jobs.

Unlocking the Full Potential of 3.5 GHz

As the FCC puts the finishing touches on the rules for the 3.5 GHz band, the agency should keep in mind the capital investment at stake.

Adopting investment-friendly rules—longer license terms, larger geographic area licenses, and an expectation that licenses will be renewed—for the licensed spectrum in the band will be critical to making the most out of this 5G-ready spectrum. That’s why CTIA and the Competitive Carriers Association came together on a license size compromise that will provide opportunities for a wide array of wireless providers.

The policy challenges as the U.S. seeks to lead the world in 5G are immense. The FCC deserves praise for recognizing—and prioritizing—these challenges, including its work to free up other spectrum and modernize infrastructure rules at all levels of government.

Acting on the 3.5 GHz band is the next important piece of our shared work together to ensure the U.S. continues its wireless leadership.

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