Tags: key | historic | wireless | innovation | pro | growth | policy

The Key to Historic Wireless Innovation? Pro-Growth Policy

The Key to Historic Wireless Innovation? Pro-Growth Policy

By    |   Friday, 01 December 2017 08:14 PM

We like our smartphones. And there are more than 260 million of them in the U.S.

In fact, 77% of Americans have one. Year-over-year, their adoption rate increases about 15%.

Experts believe their popularity and continued growth have helped 50% of America become wireless-only households. Looks like the smartphone-driven, mobility trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Today's most powerful smartphones run on fourth generation (4G) LTE networks. As powerful as these networks are, however, technology does not stand still.

The evolution to 5G networks and its underlying infrastructure is happening now. It will bring even faster mobile broadband – up to 100 times faster – to American consumers. Consequently, within a few years, it's likely you'll be using a 5G smartphone for communications needs instead of what you have in your hands today.

That is, if policymakers make the right decisions.

Among other actions, the FCC is contemplating new rules for an important swath of frequencies – the so-called “mid-band” spectrum starting at 3.5GHz – which many see as a key band for of 5G.

Present FCC rules operate via a three-tiered hierarchy to share the band, with incumbent providers (i.e., federal entities, fixed satellite earth stations, and grandfathered terrestrial wireless licensees) receiving the most “protection” from others users. Priority Access Licenses (PAL) come next, followed by General Authorized Access (GAA) in the third tier.  PALs are protected from GAA uses; the latter has to accept interference from all other users. The band will be organized by Spectrum Access Systems (SASs), which coordinate operations across the three tiers.

The present rules – with their short license terms, small license areas, and lack of renewability – frustrate investment expectations in this needed band.  Conversely, the proposed rules seek to change that by increasing the PAL license term from three to ten years; eliminating the PAL's automatic termination at the end of the term; and enlarging the license areas from census tracts to something larger, like Partial Economic Areas (PEAs).

These seem like common-sense changes, and thankfully, they have bipartisan support. As FCC Commissioner Mike O'Rielly noted:

"Generally, the role of the Commission in executing spectrum policy is to ensure that investment and innovation is promoted, that flexible use is permitted, and that the spectrum is attractive to as many users as possible. If the Commission succeeds in this task, the marketplace – through our auctions process – will determine the best use for this spectrum. [The FCC's PAL proposal] puts us on this path."

There are other avenues to pave the path for 5G's success, too.

The FCC and NTIA should continue identifying and auctioning more spectrum for commercial use so that 5G (and other evolving wireless services) can get the necessary resources to expand and thrive for consumers.

The FCC should also repeal Title II so that internet service providers can more freely supply innovative, consumer-friendly services that consumers truly need and desire, and deploy more broadband infrastructure, keeping all Americans connected to the internet.

State and local authorities should enact reasonable processes surrounding rights-of-way, “one touch,” and cell tower citing matters so that new broadband infrastructure can more rapidly make it out to where it needs to go.

And, Congress should reform taxes so businesses can more quickly expense capital items; American companies can remain globally competitive and attractive to investment; small companies aren’t penalized just for being small; and more money stays in the pocketbooks of hard-working Americans – all of which can incentivize the rollout and adoption of powerful new information and communications technology offerings for use in the marketplace.

The industry stands ready to invest an estimated $275 billion to rollout new 5G services. Analysts see this creating 3 million new jobs, and adding nearly $500 billion to the economy. Smart policies – like updating the FCC's 3.5GHz PAL rules, releasing new spectrum, repealing Title II, enacting sensible state and local broadband infrastructure practices, and reforming taxes – will go a long way in providing the right incentives to do so.

What does this translate into? If you like your smartphone now, you won't believe how much better it'll be when these pro-growth policies happen. Let's hope they do, and soon.

Mike Wendy is president of Media Freedom, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

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Among other actions, the FCC is contemplating new rules for an important swath of frequencies – the so-called “mid-band” spectrum starting at 3.5GHz – which many see as a key band for of 5G.
key, historic, wireless, innovation, pro, growth, policy
Friday, 01 December 2017 08:14 PM
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