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Remarks of Assistant Secretary Redl at Mobile World Congress Americas

September 12, 2018

Remarks of David J. Redl
Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information
Mobile World Congress Americas
Los Angeles
September 12, 2018

--As Prepared for Delivery--

Ensuring America’s Leadership in a 5G World

Thank you. It’s great to be here in Los Angeles among so many friends and colleagues.

As many of you know, a great deal of my professional experience has been focused on spectrum and wireless issues, so I welcome the opportunity to talk about what we are doing at NTIA and in the Trump Administration to support innovation in the wireless industry.

Our view of the next few years is simple: America must win the race to 5G. This goal is not negotiable. While no one can predict all that 5G will unleash, we know the parameters of what can be enabled if we get it right. Tremendous boosts in capacity and download speeds, seamless connectivity, and ultra-low latency communications means the opportunities for new applications really are limited only by our imaginations. Deploying robust, and secure, 5G networks across the country will be a big step toward life-changing and life-saving advances from smart communities to the Internet of Things.

This Administration is putting policies in place to ensure America’s continued leadership in technology and telecommunications. At the Department of Commerce, we are setting the stage for a 5G world. We are making critical spectrum policy decisions. We are working to help make networks more secure and resilient against cyberattacks.

With its partner AT&T, FirstNet is building the first-ever public safety broadband network, fulfilling one of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Among countless other activities, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is taking steps to help ensure the United States is at the forefront of space technologies, with a revamped Office of Space Commerce. And we are beginning a process to build principles for a data privacy model that protects innovation and consumers.

American leadership has been at the core of the Trump Administration’s approach to policy development. Our wireless industry demonstrating this leadership in 5G will fuel an economic boom and the next generation of innovation. But the competition will be intense, and it’s critical that our policies help to unleash our industry’s competitive spirit more than ever.

If this conference is any guide, we’re right on track. All the major providers are moving forward with plans to deploy networks, obtain 5G device deals and move from testing to launch in the next year or 18 months. And as we’ve seen from multinational companies like Ericsson, manufacturers are looking to produce 5G equipment here in the United States.

Supporting industry’s 5G push

Among NTIA’s highest priorities is supporting the wireless industry’s preparations for the deployment of 5G networks and services. The Trump Administration is taking a comprehensive approach to help make America’s 5G leadership a reality.

First, we must make enough spectrum available to meet industry’s needs. NTIA is working with the Federal Communications Commission across multiple fronts to make spectrum available. These efforts will be ongoing because we know the industry demand for spectrum is only going to grow.

Second, we are performing the needed research, development, testing and evaluation that will expand spectrum sharing opportunities and increase efficient usage of spectrum.

Third, we are working to remove obstacles to the deployment of wireless and other broadband infrastructure.

Fourth, we are collaborating wherever possible on the global standards that are defining 5G technologies, and continue U.S. Government preparations for key upcoming International Telecommunication Union conferences.

Finally, we will work with industry to make sure 5G networks are secure. We will get nowhere toward our shared 5G vision if the connections are not secure.

The first step, then, to unlocking the promise of 5G is ensuring sufficient access to spectrum.

The days of quick fixes and easy-to-identify solutions to spectrum access are behind us. We also need to maintain a balance between the spectrum needs of our growing, advanced commercial wireless industries and those of federal agencies — which provide some of the most sophisticated and extensive uses of spectrum anywhere in the world.

NTIA is coordinating with the FCC, our other federal agency partners, and industry to repurpose federal spectrum for commercial use whenever it is feasible to do so. We are always searching for new bands to study, and trying to implement sharing approaches that will make spectrum use more efficient. We hear the call to have a mix of low-, mid-band and millimeter-wave spectrum resources available for 5G, as well as for ongoing 4G services and other broadband wireless needs.

Congress is playing a pivotal role by enacting legislation to enable the government to systematically analyze, study and prepare further bands for repurposing, either through relocation or sharing.

The Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2015 required NTIA to work toward repurposing 30 megahertz of spectrum below 3 GHz. It also established a mechanism for federal agencies to tap the Spectrum Relocation Fund (SRF) to explore innovative operational or spectrum-use changes likely to free up access to federal spectrum.

Three so-called pipeline plans have been submitted so far. Two have already been approved for funding and are in progress – the Spectrum Efficient National Surveillance Radar, or SENSR effort, which is being led by the Federal Aviation Administration, has received more than $70 million from the SRF. And NOAA is studying its weather data distribution activities to potentially enable spectrum sharing in the 1675-1680 MHz band, where it operates meteorological satellites.

The Department of Defense is leading the remaining Pipeline Act activity. DOD has submitted a proposal to improve access to the 1300-1350 MHz band by considering options for their systems that are not included in the SENSR program. In coming weeks, we also expect DOD to submit an additional plan related to the 3450-3550 MHz band, which NTIA previously announced is being examined.

Earlier this year, as part of budget legislation, Congress passed the Ray Baum’s Act, which included the MOBILE NOW Act and kicked off a wide-ranging effort by NTIA and the FCC to explore further avenues to making spectrum available.

The MOBILE NOW Act requires us, in coordination with the FCC, to identify 255 megahertz of spectrum below 8 GHz for licensed and unlicensed mobile or fixed broadband wireless use. NTIA also must submit a report within 2 years on the feasibility of allowing commercial wireless services to share the 3100-3550 MHz band with federal incumbents, and we’re also required to deliver recommendations on potential incentives for federal agencies to relocate or share federal spectrum.

NTIA also is working with the FCC on reports MOBILE NOW requires it to produce. This includes assessing the feasibility of making frequencies in the 3700-4200 MHz band available for flexible uses, as well as completing a study on what is sometimes referred to as bi-directional sharing. It means exploring new opportunities for federal users to gain shared access to some non-federal bands. It stands to reason that it could work best in cases where generally compatible systems or equipment is being used by federal and non-federal users, or in bands that lend themselves to geographic separation.

The solutions we need to continue to explore and pursue are dependent upon strong capabilities in research, development, testing and evaluation. Fortunately, NTIA has a lot of talent to bring to the table. Our engineering and science expertise within our Office of Spectrum Management and at our Institute for Telecommunication Sciences in Boulder, Colorado, has led to innovative spectrum management tools and techniques. Our collaborative efforts with our federal agency partners means we typically have even more expertise at the table.

As an example, take the engineering work underlying spectrum sharing between the commercial Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) and existing federal radars in the 3550-3650 MHz band.

As part of the FCC’s tiered architecture for spectrum access in this band, NTIA has invested significant resources and engineering expertise in its collaboration with the FCC and the Wireless Innovation Forum (WInnForum) to develop the standards for testing and certification of spectrum access system (SAS) and environmental sensing capability (ESC) equipment.

NTIA’s engineers also worked to develop the concept of dynamic protection areas (DPAs), in which both commercial wireless and federal radars can co-exist, using the SAS and ESC technologies.

The DPAs will allow us to move beyond static geographic exclusion zones to protect the radars — a regulatory sledgehammer that would have undercut the viability of CBRS as a national service in the 3.5 GHz band.  As a result, and as you are hearing from many speakers this week, we are on the brink of CBRS becoming a commercial reality, and exciting development we have all been eagerly anticipating.

Expanding our broadband infrastructure

Our spectrum work is not the only way NTIA is helping to foster growth across the wireless industry. The Administration has prioritized efforts to spur investment in broadband infrastructure. 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 group is focusing on three core areas: streamlining federal permitting, leveraging federal assets for broadband, and coordinating federal funding of broadband projects.

Congress has weighed in here as well. The MOBILE NOW legislation included sections crafted to promote easier siting of communications facilities on federal land. And Congress also directed NTIA to improve the national broadband map, looking to address concerns about gaps in broadband availability, particularly in rural areas.

At the beginning of the summer, NTIA asked for comments from the public on ways to increase the quality and accuracy of broadband availability data. We received 53 sets of comments indicating a variety of data sources and approaches that we can use to support these efforts.

We appreciated the thoughtful comments, and thank everyone who took the time to share their thoughts. This fall, NTIA’s broadband team will begin acquiring the tools needed to begin data collection. We are looking to partner with industry and government agencies in new ways in order to achieve these goals. We hope to create a scalable platform and a phased approach to a new national broadband map, to make the most of our resources.

Elsewhere on the infrastructure front, I want to update you on the progress of FirstNet. Under the watchful eye of the FirstNet Authority, AT&T continues to build out of the public safety broadband network.

Since the beginning of the year, AT&T has deployed an initial 1,000 sites, plus mobile cell sites, and it has signed up more than 2,500 public safety agencies. More than 150,000 devices are now using FirstNet services, and there are more than 20 mobile applications available to subscribers in the FirstNet App Catalog. We are excited about the progress we’ve made, and we’re confident that when public safety looks at what we’re offering, they’ll like what they see.

Of course, we have to keep an eye on the international scene to ensure that we have the security and standards in place for the successful roll out of 5G. There are two major International Telecommunication Union conferences coming up in the next 14 months that we are deep in preparations for.

At the end of October, the ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference will convene in Dubai. This conference will set the course for the ITU’s priorities and activities, including its overall leadership, for the next four years.

A year later, the World Radiocommunication Conference will be held in Egypt. Among other items on its agenda, the WRC will be looking at global allocations for broadband wireless services in the millimeter wave bands, providing an international scope for the growing 5G ecosystem.

I know that GSMA is active in these ITU conferences, and I expect that many of you attending the conference this week are working hard for your organizations, or even as part of your national delegations, to achieve goals that will allow the growth of terrestrial 5G, satellite and other broadband services around the world.

As part of that, I want to encourage you, as the Plenipot rapidly approaches, to support Doreen Bogdan-Martin as director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau. Doreen is an American but also an international civil servant, and she has dedicated her career to increasing the ability of people all around the world to connect to the Internet and access valuable telemedicine, educational and business opportunities. She is immensely qualified to serve, and her election would be a clear sign that the ITU will support women for well-deserved leadership roles at its highest level.  

Improving security and privacy

To close, I want to stress how important security will be in all of the work that we’re doing. For example, President Trump has made clear that securing 5G networks is a prominent national security issue. As a government, we are vitally interested in standards-setting and other activities that are designed to ensure the integrity of U.S. wireless networks.  It is also crucial for the government to be confident that supply chains are protected, as much as possible, from software and device vulnerabilities.

At the Department of Commerce, we’ve made major progress over the past two years on security issues related to the Internet of Things. Specifically, we’ve taken on the threat of botnets, a major issue facing the world because of the sheer number of unsecured devices that exist.

Earlier this year, the Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security delivered a report to the President on how to improve the resilience of the Internet and reduce the threat of botnets. The report emphasized that this is an ecosystem-wide problem, and no one industry or technology can singlehandedly change our exposure to evolving risks. The emergence of connected devices with limited security is flagged as one of those risks.

The Departments are now working on a draft roadmap of actions that the government and private stakeholders can take to make our networks more resilient.  The suggested steps, if taken up, would improve the security of the overall internet ecosystem.

We have also stressed the importance of multistakeholder action to promote the security of connected devices. Last year we convened a collaborative effort between IoT manufacturers, security experts, and other IoT stakeholders that produced recommendations and guidance on how to make sure that connected devices were patchable. We recently launched a new multistakeholder process focused on the transparency of software components – based on the idea that you have to know about any vulnerable components in your connected products if you want to keep them secure. 

This initiative has attracted experts from across the digital ecosystem, as we try to avoid solutions that are targeted at only one market. Stakeholders have identified several work streams addressing both technical and policy aspects of this issue. We’ll be hosting an in-person meeting in Washington D.C. on November 6 for participants to share their progress.

Of course, security is only part of the equation as we look to usher in an even more connected world. We’ve also seen major national conversations around the issue of data privacy.

At the direction of the White House, the Department of Commerce has launched a process to reassert American leadership in consumer data privacy. At NTIA, we have been holding discussions with various stakeholders to find areas of agreement a possible path forward. In the next few weeks, we will be issuing a request for comment to gather further feedback on our proposed approach.

Our hope for this process is a result that will provide legal clarity, flexibility to innovate, and high levels of consumer protection. We have a strong track record of privacy protections in our country. Now is not the time to sit back and allow bad ideas to flourish. Under American leadership, business and consumers will be able to act with confidence and certainty.

I think it’s clear from what you’re seeing and experiencing here this week that when we talk about 5G, we’re talking about no less than the future of the Internet, and how it will shape our lives for decades to come. It is also clear that a wide range of policy decisions and actions will play important roles.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, and the competition for global 5G leadership will be fierce. But in my time at NTIA, in my meetings with engineers and executives, and now at this conference, I’ve seen the evidence that we, collectively, have what it takes to get the job done.

My door is always open – and you know I love talking about these issues. Let’s keep working together to keep the United States in its rightful place as the leader in innovation and wireless technology.