Remarks of Assistant Secretary Victory at the CTIA Special Interest Seminar, ALACEL - Latin-American Conference Wireless 2003

New Orleans, LA
March 18, 2003

Cellular Telecommunication and Internet Association
Special Interest Seminar
ALACEL - Latin-American Conference Wireless 2003
New Orleans, LA

Remarks delivered by

Nancy J. Victory
Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information
March 18, 2003

Buenas tardes y gracías. I want to thank Joyce Alarcon for that introduction and for inviting me to participate in your 2003 Wireless Conference. It's wonderful to be with you again and to discuss with you some of the tremendous advances we've seen recently in wireless, as well as the challenges that affect the industry. As head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, I am well aware of the critical role that ALACEL plays in fostering information exchange and dialog in the Americas on some of the shared challenges and potential opportunities that lie ahead. This type of dialog not only has benefits among providers, but also among our countries as we tackle difficult regulatory issues and coordinate spectrum use and management.

I think you will agree that, with so many new products and features being released, this is an exciting time to be in the wireless industry. Wireless communications is on the verge of living up to its potential of providing not only mobility, but also a cost-effective and reliable alternative to wired networks. In many countries, including the UK, Italy, and several Latin American nations, wireless subscriptions outnumber landline subscriptions. But that is only part of the story. Within the past few years, we've seen handsets evolve from simple mobile telephones to 21st century data communicators. SMS or "Short Message Service" is immensely popular and still growing throughout the world, with increased interest in the United States. Many users now can and do download rich color graphics to their wireless handsets using "two-and-a-half-G" connections, with 3G becoming available in some areas. A few steps from us, CTIA's convention floor is jam-packed with new consumer products offering the latest handsets with color screens and incorporating the features of a handheld computer or digital camera.

Significantly, a recent report found that worldwide mobile phone sales totaled 423.4 units last year, a 6 percent increase over 2001. More encouraging, the report said, was that fourth quarter 2002 mobile phone sales totaled 122.6 million units, an increase of 14 percent versus the same period the prior year. These advances signal that wireless is swiftly shedding its image as the capacity-restricted second cousin of wired services, and moving toward preeminence in providing voice and data connections for all users.

The wireless industry is certainly on the move in the United States--and I understand that the same is true in Latin America. Faced with your own set of challenges, we applaud your efforts to find new and creative ways to offer and deploy telecommunications services. We note that, for example, a majority of Latin American wireless users subscribe to prepaid plans. And despite the difficult political and economic landscape in a large portion of the continent, industry analysts forecast that next year Latin America's mobile service revenues will recover strongly, to grow 13%!

Ensuring progress and continued development within the wireless industry presents major challenges for those of us in government. To keep up with increasing demands for new technologies that require spectrum to operate, we must develop sustainable spectrum policies that ensure effective and efficient spectrum management and use. While creativity is helpful, the key to policymaking success is listening to and learning from the experiences of others. By doing so, we can minimize missteps and maximize our successes. For example, I understand that Guatemala and El Salvador have moved to a market-based property rights system of spectrum management. The success of such novel approaches can influence what is tried elsewhere.

This afternoon, I would like to spend some time talking to you about what we're doing in the U.S. to move toward policies that more efficiently and effectively utilize spectrum, and thus create more opportunities for new wireless services. While our strategy in the United States may not be entirely applicable in every country in Latin America and the Caribbean, I hope that some of our experiences will be relevant as you work in those countries to provide more and better wireless services. Additionally, I want to address and identify some areas where we can work together to advance the telecommunications needs of our hemisphere.

 

NTIA OVERVIEW AND ROLE IN SPECTRUM MANAGEMENT

To get started, I'd like to explain a little about who we are and what we're about at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, or "NTIA." We are a small agency that covers a lot of ground. As the head of NTIA, I serve as President Bush's principal adviser on all forms of telecommunications policy. But with respect to spectrum, we have a very specific role--to manage the radio spectrum used by the Federal government agencies in accomplishing their missions. In this role, NTIA processes thousands of frequency assignment requests from the Federal agencies each year.

However, NTIA does not just process frequency requests. Because of the tremendous demand for spectrum, we also assist in planning and coordinating current and future spectrum use requirements among the government agencies. Additionally, because so much of the spectrum is shared between the government agencies and the private sector, NTIA works closely with the Federal Communications Commission on overall spectrum management processes and policies. NTIA and the FCC also work closely with the State Department to develop and promote the United States' positions on spectrum and other telecommunications issues within international treaty bodies and other fora.

NTIA'S SPECTRUM SUMMIT

The processes and institutions that govern spectrum use in the United States have served it fairly well over the decades. However, particularly in recent years, there has been tremendous growth in and demand for devices and services that require spectrum in order to operate. All too often, finding spectrum for these exciting new technologies is exceedingly difficult because the most desired frequencies - those below 3 GHz - are heavily crowded with existing users.

Technology's constant evolution can be helpful in solving difficult efficiency, interference or sharing issues. However, the increasing pace of technological development requires NTIA, the FCC, and U.S. Federal agencies to respond more quickly to implement new technologies, to distribute spectrum, and to resolve spectrum issues - not always an easy task for a government bureacracy. There is also the challenge of maintaining stability and security while trying to modernize old rules and regulations to reflect today's more dynamic environment and to meet the future needs of spectrum users. We understand the importance of sound regulatory policies that encourage certainty in the market in order for businesses to feel confident enough to invest and innovate.

Currently, there is a strong sense among virtually all stakeholders - government and private sector alike - that our system is in need of an overhaul. We must look for new and creative ways that not only protect current users' systems, but are also flexible to accommodate new technologies that enter the market. That is why last year NTIA hosted a two-day Spectrum Summit that brought together leaders in the spectrum management community with those from industry to try to figure out how to make the process better and more transparent. FCC Chairman Michael Powell, his FCC colleagues, Federal agency representatives, private sector wireless service providers and manufacturers, technologists, economists and analysts participated in the event. The purpose of the Summit was to explore new and innovative ideas to develop and implement spectrum management approaches that would encourage spectrum efficiency; provide spectrum for new technologies; and improve the effectiveness of the domestic and international spectrum management processes.

Throughout the course of the two days, several themes or concepts continued to be touched upon by the panelists. As a result of those discussions, NTIA developed several basic goals or principles designed to guide our actions to achieve improved spectrum management:

First, the U.S. government must work together as "One Spectrum Team" in its approach to spectrum. As spectrum becomes scarcer domestically and globally, it becomes increasingly important to improve communication among the agencies engaged in spectrum management. Our country's spectrum needs are too important to be undermined by internecine squabbling between and within branches of government. As the head of NTIA, I have been committed to building a foundation of trust, collegiality and cooperation in our dealings within the Federal government and in our interactions with the FCC, the State Department and Congress. Chairman Powell at the FCC and Ambassador David Gross at the State Department have embraced this approach and have helped to develop an action plan to facilitate the efficient functioning of the nation's spectrum management team at home and abroad. As part of this plan, NTIA and the FCC recently executed a new Memorandum of Understanding to guide our interagency coordination.

 

Second, there is the need to modernize our spectrum policies so that they are forward-looking. A concerted effort needs to be made to eliminate unnecessary government micromanagement of spectrum uses. This means taking a fresh look at legacy policies, rules, and restrictions to assess their ability to accommodate emerging technologies or spectrum needs. Current practice requires users to seek permission from either NTIA or the FCC before changing the services offered over their licensed frequencies. This process can impose time-consuming approval processes that can engender lengthy delays. We need to look at policies that permit flexibility of uses and technology. This is essential to ensure that government does not block innovation. For example, NTIA has supported the FCC's proposal to allow secondary leasing of spectrum to third parties. We will be exploring whether and to what extent this could work for government users. NTIA has also supported policies that facilitate transitions where relocation of spectrum users may be necessary to the introduction of a new technology. We have implemented rules requiring reimbursement to Federal agencies that give up spectrum for private sector use and we are particularly bullish on a proposal now being considered by Congress to streamline the reimbursement process by creating a fund from spectrum auction proceeds to reimburse the affected Federal agencies.

 

Third, we must pursue policies that encourage spectrum efficiency and that discourage spectrum waste. NTIA has long advocated the use of more spectrum efficient technologies. For example, NTIA has developed--and the Federal agencies are now implementing--a transition to narrowband technology to relieve congestion in the land mobile radio bands used by the Government. Under NTIA regulations, Federal agencies must convert to narrowband technology in certain land mobile frequencies by 2005 and in all others by 2008. Narrowbanding, where technically possible, holds great promise for increasing the number of channels available to all users of spectrum. We will also be examining other policies to encourage spectrum efficiency.

And finally, we must develop spectrum policies that ensure the deployment of robust wireless networks that are prepared for the worst of crises and that are able to deliver the best of services to the government, defense and public safety communities as well as to the American people. In prior years, this may not have been a primary consideration. In today's world, it is all too important. The wireless networks of today and tomorrow must be robust and capable of functioning well, especially under the stress and strain of an emergency situation. NTIA is working hard to make sure its policies and requirements promote such operation. We have also been working with particular spectrum user communities to solve technical challenges to such improved operations, such as with respect to interoperability among public safety providers.

RECENT SPECTRUM CHALLENGES AND HOW WE'VE ADDRESSED THEM

Last year's Spectrum Summit was a success. But it was only the start. Since the summit, NTIA has made significant progress in achieving its goals for more efficient and effective spectrum management policies that we hope will provide more opportunities and certainty about the path ahead. The Spectrum Summit shed light on many issues and it continues to guide our policymaking. However, at the same time that we were working to improve our spectrum management policies overall, we faced several immediate challenges that many said were impossible to overcome. I am pleased to report that NTIA and the FCC teamed-up successfully to find answers to several spectrum challenges, rendering the "impossible" - possible.

 

Third Generation Advanced Services (3G)

For NTIA, 3G posed the question of whether and how the federal government could make frequencies available for Third Generation advanced wireless services in the United States. With guidance from the President, the U.S. Department of Defense, the FCC, NTIA, and the private sector sat down and had honest discussions on what was doable and what was not. As a result of these candid discussions, NTIA and the FCC announced that an additional 90 MHz of spectrum would be made available to accommodate advanced mobile (3G) services and articulated a plan for accomplishing this. One of the basic premises of this plan was that the allocation would be technology neutral and thus the private sector could decide the technology that would ultimately be used. It was also imperative that the spectrum provided not be generation-specific, thus enabling the marketplace to determine whether the spectrum is going to be used for 2G or 3G or 4G or whatever lies ahead.

 

Ultrawideband (WB)

Ultrawideband or "UWB" posed different challenges. UWB is another example of a truly remarkable technology. Who would ever have guessed ten years ago that a technology would be developed that allows devices to operate over a large portion of spectrum at power levels so low that it can overlay some of the most congested frequencies? Yet, this technology holds much promise to support advances in homeland defense, law enforcement, and a number of other applications. The FCC proposed in 2000 to amend its rules to accommodate UWB devices without causing harmful interference to government operations (including national defense systems) or commercial systems. NTIA tested and analyzed UWB effects and worked closely with the affected government agencies. The result of this collaborative effort between the government and the private sector resulted in another successful accommodation of a new service. We expect that UWB devices will now be proliferating not only within the United States, but elsewhere in the world. We hope the United States' accommodation of ultrawideband devices serves as a useful model for consideration by other countries facing the challenge of finding a spectrum home for similar new technologies.

5 GHz

Early this year, the U.S. Government and the private sector also reached an agreement on how to make an additional 255 MHz of spectrum available for unlicensed use in the 5 GHz band - resolving another complex spectrum management issue that posed a potential barrier to deployment of devices using the 802.11(a) Wi-Fi technology. For nearly a year, the players at the table could not agree on the technical parameters that would permit sharing between the new unlicensed devices and incumbent operations. Finally, government and industry were able to find common ground and a consensus approach - fortunately, in time for the recent CITEL World Radio Conference planning meeting. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the other Western Hemisphere countries, as well as in countries around the world, to achieve a mobile allocation in the 5150-5350 MHz and 5470-5725 MHz bands that is consistent with protecting the operations of incumbent users.

FUTURE SPECTRUM INITIATIVES

While the U.S. telecommunications industry has made some great strides over the last year, there is still much work to be done. NTIA intends to focus on a number of major spectrum issues designed to improve overall spectrum management.

Among other things, NTIA plans to address and enhance spectrum efficiency among government users. The first part of this initiative is to review just how government agencies are using their spectrum today. In this regard, NTIA will be conducting a study of the current and future use of the Federal land mobile spectrum in the Washington/Baltimore area. Based on this use, NTIA will identify the technical improvements or changes via technology, spectrum management practices, and/or standards to increase effectiveness of spectrum use and spectral efficiency. If this approach works, NTIA's efforts would be expanded to the remainder of the land mobile radio services and other radio services as well.

NTIA will also be examining whether certain market-based spectrum policies successful on the private sector side can be applied to the federal government to encourage efficient spectrum use. For example, could secondary leasing options be made available to government licensees to permit them to lease out a portion of their spectrum in non-emergency situations and recover it in the event of an emergency?

NTIA also hopes to address spectrum rights relative to interference protection. Right now there is no standard formula or methodology for determining levels of acceptable interference. That's one of the reasons why negotiating new sharing situations takes so long and is so contentious. This year, NTIA plans to begin identifying the interference protection criteria for various radio services. If this effort is successful, NTIA will consider adopting the derived interference protection criteria standards into its rules and regulations. We would also encourage the FCC to adopt these new standards where applicable.

Receiver standards is another area that we hope to investigate. To the extent that a receiver is more robust, it has the potential to reduce interference and increase sharing. Here again we will be considering inclusion of these standards in NTIA's rules and regulations if doing so will mitigate interference, be practical, and be cost effective.

 

The Bush Administration has and will continue to advance policies that promote efficiency of spectrum use. I believe our recent achievements demonstrate what can be done when those competing for spectrum are given the opportunity to work together to develop innovative solutions to complex spectrum management issues and responsibilities. This type of honest coordination, coupled with the spectrum management initiatives proposed by NTIA, will go a long way in helping to bring new and advanced wireless technologies to market.

WORKING TOWARD HEMISPHERIC CONCENSUS ON SPECTRUM MANAGEMENT

I am proud of our domestic achievements over the last year and of our continued progress toward efficient and effective spectrum management. However, I am keenly aware that this is only the beginning. To achieve international efficiency and effectiveness in spectrum management, we must be dedicated, determined, and committed to teamwork. Working together to build a hemispheric consensus on spectrum management policies is the first step in our quest to achieve this goal.

I believe that, as a region, our efforts within CITEL will be essential to achieving positive outcomes at the World Radio Conference this year. As a coordinated regional team, we have a unique opportunity at the WRC to demonstrate our commitment to achieving effective and efficient global spectrum management. During the 2002 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Marrakech, the CITEL Member States worked as a region to coordinate a number of Inter-American proposals. As a result of these efforts, CITEL, for the first time, was able to advocate hemispheric positions at the ITU conference. I want to congratulate the members of CITEL, who as a result of intense efforts at their recent meetings in Argentina and Florida, agreed on 35 inter-America approved proposals (IAP) that will form the basis for hemispheric positions on the WRC agenda items. Some of the most important include:

Consideration of allocations to the mobile service in the 5 GHz band for wireless local area network systems;

Identification of harmonized bands for public protection/disaster relief;

Radionavigation satellite service (RNSS) GPS and Galileo allocations to complete the work started in WRC-2000 where 3 new frequency bands were allocated relative to protection of aeronautical safety systems, radars, and radio astronomy;

Aeronautical mobile satellite services secondary allocation in the 14 GHz band to provide Internet in the sky; and

Consideration of small earth stations for the fixed satellite service in the 13 GHz band.

We look forward to working with our CITEL partners in furthering these proposals at the upcoming World Radio Conference.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, we at NTIA and in the United States are committed to efficient and effective spectrum management. We are also committed to working with other countries, both in the region and around the globe, to resolve these complex management issues. As we establish more stable markets with clear regulatory actions, the wireless industry will grow faster and stronger. In addition, innovation will be key to this industry's success. We must encourage innovation by allowing the market and industry to determine, to the greatest extent possible, the types of applications and services used and developed. Government should not stand in the way or impose unnecessary constraints.

In the area of spectrum management, we have the benefit of having close relationships with our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere. It is critical for all of us to share ideas on how best to deal with the telecommunications challenges that we all face. I would expect many of my counterparts in Latin American and Caribbean countries are struggling with some of the same spectrum management issues I am. To the extent that we can pool our knowledge and share our experiences, we will all be more successful and our countries and our region will benefit.

Thank you.