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April 2, 2019

To Lead the World in 5G, the U.S. Needs a National Spectrum Strategy .

To Lead the World in 5G, the U.S. Needs a National Spectrum Strategy


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Nick Ludlum
Senior Vice President & Chief Communications Officer

A year ago, the U.S. ranked third in the world, behind China and South Korea, in 5G readiness.

Today, new research finds the U.S. had leapt up into a tie with China in global 5G readiness. What a difference twelve months makes.

America’s wireless industry has stepped up in a big way to begin bringing 5G to communities across our country.

In fact, we’re leading the world in commercial 5G deployments: by the end of 2019, we will have nearly twice as many as any other nation, from Harrison County, Mississippi, to Indianapolis, Indiana, and Los Angeles, California.

This is due in large part due to major reforms and key actions by policymakers at the FCC, in the Administration, in Congress, and in the states, particularly around the siting of wireless infrastructure and the launch of the first high-band auctions.

But our work isn’t over yet. If we treat this news as the finish line, we’ve already lost. We need continued action to win the 5G race.

But our work isn’t over yet. If we treat this news as the finish line, we’ve already lost. We need continued action to win the 5G race.
Nick Ludlum, Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer

Because other countries are moving aggressively to build the infrastructure to power 5G networks. China, for instance, has more than 14 wireless cell sites per 10,000 people, compared to 4.7 in the United States, and more than 5 sites per every 10 square miles, compared to 0.4 in the U.S., according to a recent study.

We need to keep our foot on the gas—and continue to work together, particularly on spectrum.

Thankfully, the Administration has recognized this and is developing a National Spectrum Strategy to give the wireless industry the certainty required to plan for and build out the best and most secure 5G networks possible.

So today we’re laying out a three-point call to action to inform the Administration’s National Spectrum Strategy.

First, we’re calling for a clear, 5-year schedule of new auctions to put more high-, mid-, and low-band spectrum in the hands of America’s wireless industry. Freeing up these spectrum bands will create a spectrum stimulus, boosting the U.S. economy by $391 billion and create 1.8 million new jobs.

And we need to focus on mid-band. While the FCC has put the U.S. ahead of many of our global peers when it comes to high-band spectrum, the U.S. lags far behind other countries—including China—in mid-band spectrum.

Mid-band is critical to 5G because it offers high capacity for data-intensive applications as well as the ability to transmit signals over longer distances. By next year, other countries will have released four-times more mid-band spectrum than the United States. With no auctions currently scheduled, we need to move quickly to free up more of this needed spectrum to support our 5G networks.

Second, the National Spectrum Strategy should recommit to the free-market policies that have made America the proving ground for wireless innovation. In fact, flexible, competition-enhancing policies were key to the U.S. winning the race to 4G and are exactly what we need to reach 5G’s full potential while enhancing our nation’s economic and national security.

Third, the National Spectrum Strategy should articulate a vision for modernizing how the U.S. government approaches spectrum management to both benefit government operations and encourage private sector development.

* * *

5G is going to be unlike any other generation of wireless. These networks will transform the way we live and work, powering everything from artificial intelligence, to remote surgery, to precision agriculture, and the innovations of tomorrow.

To realize this future and win the race to 5G, we need an action-oriented national strategy to allocating and managing spectrum built on the competitive markets and spectrum policies that made America’s wireless industry the world leader today. And by doubling down on that approach as the 5G race begins in earnest, we’ll be well-positioned to address the coordinated investment strategy that China and other countries are taking.

America’s wireless is committed to 5G—and a National Spectrum Strategy is a tremendous opportunity to supercharge the ongoing 5G rollout in the U.S. Let’s make it happen, together.

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