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Remarks of Assistant Secretary Redl at the BIS 2018 Annual Conference on Export Controls and Policy

May 14, 2018

Remarks of David J. Redl
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information
BIS 2018 Annual Conference on Export Controls and Policy
Washington, D.C.
May 14, 2018

--As Prepared for Delivery--

Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with NTIA, we are an agency within the Department of Commerce that serves as the President’s principal advisor on telecommunications and information policy. That means we are involved in a range of activities and discussions across the government, but our mission is focused on three key areas:

  • We manage the federal government’s use of radiofrequency spectrum and work to expand the use of spectrum by all users;
  • We seek to expand broadband access and encourage adoption of broadband; and
  • We work to ensure that the Internet remains an engine for innovation and economic growth.

While our goals are interrelated, today I’m going to talk primarily about our role ensuring America’s leadership in fifth-generation wireless systems, or 5G.

Why America Needs to Lead in 5G

Everyone here with a smartphone understands the benefits we’ve seen from 4G – but it’s about more than high-speed Internet in the palm of your hand. America’s leadership in 4G helped create hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs and led to a booming, worldwide market for American hardware and software.

The promise of 5G is even more exciting. 5G will greatly expand the capabilities of wireless networks, allowing for powerful broadband applications and nearly universal connectivity of people and machines. It will open the door for advanced Internet of Things and Smart Cities applications, faster and more reliable health care and public safety services, and increased productivity in almost every industry, from farming to advanced manufacturing.

Our continued leadership into the next generation of wireless technology is essential for our national and economic security. We are not alone in our pursuit. Other countries are organizing their industrial policies to take the lead in global standards and equipment development.

America’s wireless industry is already making significant investments in preparation for 5G deployment. But they’re also calling on the government to act, and we need to heed their call.

In order to ensure America’s 5G leadership, the entire government must work in a coordinated fashion to support the industry’s 5G push. From our perspective at NTIA, this support will take four forms: making spectrum available, removing obstacles to deploying infrastructure, ensuring we have a collective strategy to secure 5G networks, and collaborating on the global standards that will define how the 5G race unfolds.

Finding the Spectrum to Power 5G

Spectrum is the invisible infrastructure of our digital world. It not only enables our mobile society, but it helps power many critical functions of the federal government, including national defense, atmospheric monitoring, air traffic control and space exploration.

NTIA’s most important responsibility is finding enough spectrum to support competitive, ubiquitous and secure 5G in America. So while we’re moving as fast as possible to get more spectrum into the hands of private sector innovators, we must balance that with the needs of our national government spectrum users.

We’ve been working with the Federal Communications Commission to get the balance right, and are encouraged by the FCC’s focus on spectrum issues.  The FCC’s recent actions include easing regulations that impede deployment of wireless infrastructure; establishing auction rules for the 24 and 28 GHz bands, and seeking more efficient use of the 2.5 GHz band. These steps will help America be the first to 5G.

As we look to achieve a balanced spectrum landscape, efficiency is the name of the game. We are actively identifying and studying spectrum bands that could be made available for commercial uses. Our approach historically has been to move out incumbent users to make way for commercial. But this is expensive and time-consuming. And it’s becoming more difficult as demand grows and the obvious candidates for relocation have dried up.

So we’re now looking at using advances in technology to increase efficiency and share spectrum to make sure we’re getting the maximum benefit. Make no mistake, sharing is complex too. But we have made significant progress as a result of relationships and trust developed between industry and government. NTIA’s spectrum team has spent years establishing those relationships and I am lucky to have an impressive team working to ensure that our spectrum processes continue to meet our country’s needs.

We have an excellent resource in our research lab, the Boulder, Colorado-based Institute for Telecommunication Sciences. ITS is home to world-leading experts in spectrum and telecommunications research. ITS engineers are working hard with our Office of Spectrum Management to put forward an exciting sharing model in the 3.5 GHz band. This spectrum, known as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service, could be a crucial component to our 5G efforts. At the heart of this innovative spectrum band are two systems that will allow commercial users to coexist with military radar systems as well as each other. ITS is collaborating with all interested stakeholders to certify these systems, which essentially will combine spectrum monitoring sensors in the field with a database.

Spectrum policy has been a passion of mine for my entire professional life. This is an exciting time to be involved in this area, as advances in technology are enabling innovations that we couldn’t even imagine just 10 years ago. Yet there’s still so much we don’t know about how spectrum is actually used.

Luckily NTIA’s scientists are on the case. We recently announced that our ITS lab has partnered with the University of Colorado Boulder to develop a wireless test bed. Later this year, we will install spectrum monitoring sensors throughout the CU Boulder campus, which will provide novel insights into how real-world spectrum sharing could work. Our sharing and research efforts point toward a promising future for managing our nation’s spectrum resources


Beyond spectrum, deploying small cells and other wireless infrastructure will also be vitally important to our success in 5G.

This Administration has prioritized efforts to modernize federal processes for permitting and review of major infrastructure projects – to spur investment, speed construction and decrease costs.

NTIA is working to improve federal coordination around this effort through an interagency working group that we co-chair with the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service. The working group is focusing on three areas. The first is federal permitting. We’re looking at what’s required to place broadband facilities on Federal lands. We want to streamline permitting efforts and establish consistency across agencies.

The second area is federal funding of broadband projects. The group will report on the effectiveness of various federal broadband programs and will issue recommendations on how to better coordinate funding streams.

The third area for the working group is leveraging federal assets for broadband deployment. The federal government is the single largest landowner in the country, and it can boost deployment immensely by actively reducing barriers to deployment on public lands and in government-owned buildings. In January, President Trump issued an Executive Order and Presidential Memo to make federal assets available to support rural broadband deployment, and to streamline federal permitting processes by developing uniform agency applications and contract forms.

Security and Standards

As we move aggressively to stand up 5G networks across the country, we must be equally aggressive in our efforts to secure them. The President has made clear that secure 5G is a vital part of the administration’s National Security Strategy.

Once these networks are active, it’s hard to think of a sector of our economy that won’t depend on them. We cannot afford to put security on the backburner – we have to plan for security from the outset.

As a government, we are looking to collaborate broadly with industry to assess and identify gaps and opportunities in the development of global standards.  We want to work with industry on a strategy to ensure U.S. interests are being adequately represented and our ideas advanced as effectively as possible across the standards landscape.

That means the entire landscape. In addition to the traditional commercial wireless standards bodies, we need to be engaged with standards initiatives related to the Internet of Things, connected automobiles, and other emerging technologies that will influence the 5G environment.

I hope you’re as excited as I am to see what 5G can do for our nation. I think we’re on the right path to ensuring America’s 5G leadership, but we can’t take our foot off the gas. If you’d like to learn more, I invite you to join NTIA next month, on June 12, for a half-day Spectrum Policy Symposium that we’ll be hosting at the National Press Club. We’ll be bringing together policy leaders from the White House, Congress, federal agencies and the private sector to take stock of our current policy goals, requirements and initiatives — and chart a course for developing and implementing new strategies. Information on this event is on the NTIA website. Thank you for your time.