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NTIA’s 2020 Spectrum Policy Symposium Spotlights Benefits of Sharing, Collaboration

October 13, 2020 by Charles Cooper, Associate Administrator, Office of Spectrum Management

NTIA’s 2020 Spectrum Policy Symposium showcased how private-sector innovation and government support are working to advance America’s longtime leadership in wireless technologies. The third annual symposium, held virtually on September 22, brought together a broad cross-section of government policymakers and experts in the telecommunications, tech, space and aerospace industries. It featured keynote remarks from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) Director Kelvin Droegemeier, and Acting NTIA Administrator Adam Candeub.

Secretary Ross kicked off the event by underscoring how U.S. spectrum policy supports a strong economy through job creation and economic growth, highlighting the role of spectrum availability in advancing both the wireless industry and commercial space sectors. Dr. Droegemeier, in his remarks, applauded efforts to make additional mid-band spectrum available through the work of experts at the White House, Department of Defense (DOD) and NTIA. Adam Candeub spoke to NTIA’s important role in advancing several national broadband-related goals, including the real-time spectrum sharing framework that is fundamental to the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). Candeub also reviewed the technical work that laid the foundation for the Trump Administration to make 3450-3550 MHz available for 5G without harming national security.                                                                          

The keynotes were followed by two panel discussions, with the first offering a wide-ranging discussing among top policy experts from the White House, Congress and federal agencies. The group touched on the importance of the bifurcated nature of spectrum management and the challenge in protecting federal agency uses while expanding commercial access. Eric Burger, assistant director of OSTP, discussed the White House identification of 5G as critical to industries of the future (e.g. biotech, artificial intelligence, and advanced communications) and how this prompted the Administration to take decisive action on freeing up mid-band spectrum.  Kate O’Connor, chief counsel for communications and technology for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, identified how changes in the communications marketplace are requiring regulators to catch up in order to promote more network investment and emphasized the important role of NTIA as the spokesperson for the executive branch agencies on information and telecommunications matters.

Frederick D. Moorefield, Jr., the deputy chief information officer for command, control and communications in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, reiterated the importance of spectrum sharing in solving the nation’s growing spectrum challenges and the need to modernize systems, develop strong partnerships and invest in innovative tools. Victor Sparrow, NASA’s acting assistant deputy associate administrator and director of the Spectrum Policy and Planning Division, discussed the complexities of spectrum coordination for global users like DoD and NASA. Sparrow also noted unique characteristics of certain bands make it impossible to relocate some systems to other bands.   

The second panel of technology industry experts explored emerging commercial applications and how spectrum policy can support their development. Mary Brown, director of government affairs at Cisco, identified the growing role of unlicensed technologies in meeting demand from enterprise customers and applauded recent FCC action to make 6 GHz spectrum available. Steve Sharkey, vice president of government affairs at T- Mobile, highlighted the growth in data services and touted T-Mobile’s “three layer cake” of licensed spectrum, which includes a low-band spectrum layer, 2.5 GHz as T-Mobile’s primary mid-band layer, and high-band spectrum for dense urban applications. 

Jennifer Warren, vice president of technology and regulation at Lockheed Martin, discussed how many of Lockheed’s platforms for government customers are spectrum-dependent, including planes, helicopters, UAVs, satellites, interplanetary missions, navigation and timing systems, and radars. She also backed increased spectrum sharing and emphasized the need to design sharing into standards and network architectures from the start. Dave Wright, director of regulatory affairs and network standards for CommScope, emphasized how the 3.5 GHz CBRS approach has allowed unlicensed and licensed operations to work compatibly with DoD systems. Wright recommended that policymakers and the industry collaborate to begin developing the spectrum “pipeline” now to meet needs for the next 10-20 years.

NTIA appreciates these valuable contributions and we thank everyone who participated in making this year’s symposium such a great success.