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Remarks of Assistant Secretary Redl at the NTIA Spectrum Policy Symposium

June 12, 2018

NTIA Spectrum Policy Symposium Remarks

David J. Redl

Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information

National Telecommunications and Information Administration

June 12, 2018

~ As Prepared for Delivery ~

Good morning, and thank you for joining us for NTIA’s Spectrum Policy Symposium. We’re very pleased that Secretary Ross could join us today to discuss the status of our nation’s spectrum policy. Under the leadership of the Secretary and President Trump, the Administration is committed to ensuring that U.S. consumers continue to benefit from American leadership across the technology sector, and to protecting our national and economic security.

We have a distinguished group of speakers, and I welcome your participation in what should be a lively discussion. 

This is an opportune time to take stock of our spectrum policies and management practices. We have accomplished a great deal over the past decade. Mobile and satellite broadband services are empowering job creation, keeping people and information safe, and creating knowledge and fostering commerce throughout the world. The satellite industry is building and launching a new array of advanced constellations; unlicensed services are empowering consumers to take control of spectrum services in the their homes and businesses; and the Internet of Things, smart cities, driver-less cars and drones are fast becoming part of our everyday lives, making profound changes in the way we live.

But with 5G on the cusp of reality, there is much more to be done. 

As leaders in spectrum policy across government and industry, we must use this finite resource effectively, so we can fully support our 21st century wireless needs.  We need to plan for the future – so there will be enough spectrum available for 5G, unlicensed, and the next generation of satellite systems that hold so much potential. While commercial needs are extensive, we must balance that demand against government’s expanding needs for national defense, public safety, aerospace, and other vital missions.

It is imperative we make America first in 5G.  We do that by removing obstacles to deploying 5G infrastructure, and playing an active role in the international standards-setting processes that will define how 5G unfolds. We must also ensure that we have a collective approach to securing 5G networks.

How Do We Achieve our Goals?

We need a strategic approach that will engage both government and the private sector in supporting 5G and our other 21st century spectrum imperatives. With our shared goal of optimizing spectrum in ways that deliver maximum benefits to the American public, we need a comprehensive set of immediate and long-term steps. Immediate actions are necessary to address priorities such as 5G and other emerging terrestrial and space-based based technologies. But we also need to establish the framework for a longer-term approach to spectrum policymaking. This requires true collaboration across government, and significant cooperation with telecommunications, aerospace, and other industries. We must also develop a thorough awareness of current and future requirements for federal and non-federal access to spectrum.

We are taking stock of the valuable progress made to date, and assessing how emerging technologies will impact spectrum usage and demand across the U.S. economy. Our ongoing spectrum-related research and development, testing protocols, and engineering analyses are yielding the tools that help make more efficient use of spectrum to meet federal and commercial needs.

Over the longer term, agreement on foundational principles can drive our collective efforts. The principles must include a commitment to balancing federal and non-federal spectrum requirements, and reflect the need to protect economic and national security. We need to ensure sufficient mechanisms exist to increase spectrum access, including through spectrum sharing, when that is the most effective approach.  We need greater transparency of spectrum use. And we should promote increased collaboration between federal and non-federal stakeholders, including creative public-private partnerships.

Our strategy must rely upon a flexible spectrum management regulatory model, to include standards and enforcement mechanisms that encourage  spectrum efficiency and effectiveness.  We also need to leverage spectrum research, development, testing and engineering processes to elevate and deploy advanced spectrum sharing tools, dual-use technologies, and innovative ways to access spectrum.  We need to make meaningful progress toward establishing secure, enterprise-level spectrum management tools to help us both identify areas of greater spectrum efficiency, and to manage the coordination of shared spectrum access.

A foundation is in place today to make progress toward these objectives. NTIA enjoys close cooperation and collaboration with the major stakeholders in the spectrum policy environment:  Congress, the White House, the FCC, the federal agencies that use spectrum — and the commercial and other non-federal spectrum user communities. As the electromagnetic spectrum gets more and more congested, what is more true than ever, we can only move forward when standing together.  Through a cooperative approach, we can build a successful long-term spectrum strategy that balances all needs.   

We Will Leverage and Build on Existing Initiatives

NTIA is continuing to work with all spectrum stakeholders on current and legacy activities that are helping to align us with future spectrum requirements. We have come a long way already from the way we traditionally allocated and assigned permissions for access to spectrum.  Historically, we have taken somewhat of a zero sum approach:  You take spectrum from one use -- and federal agency use is always the first target -- and give it to another.  But that changed when we reached the end of the era of easy and painless spectrum relocations. And make no mistake, that era is over.  We discovered that, in many of the most constrained bands, it is too time-consuming and expensive to simply evict a user, or set of users, from bands they have used and counted on for years or even decades.  There is often too much sunken investment into equipment with lengthy life cycles, and significant re-design costs.  This is particularly true with satellites and radar systems, with their long development times and even longer operational lives.

Now we are looking for new ways to share spectrum among incumbents and new users.  This is rarely problem-free, even when it is technically possible.  But with new and dynamic access techniques and technologies, sharing continues to offer a lot of promise.  NTIA continues to work with the FCC to develop sharing and repurposing approaches across low, medium, and high band spectrum ranges. 

One of the most innovative approaches involves the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum. This is a really exciting time as we get closer to the CBRS spectrum being made available to industry because the 3.5 GHz band affords an excellent mix of capacity and coverage capabilities.  The FCC’s flexible licensing framework may also open the door to a variety of business models for putting this prime spectrum to use and for potentially allowing non-traditional players to take advantage of this opportunity.

Progress continues on the technical aspects of the spectrum sharing arrangements that are key to rolling out CBRS while protecting the incumbent operations (federal and non-federal) in the band.  NTIA, in particular through our Office of Spectrum Management (OSM) and Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS), continues to work very closely with the FCC, the Department of Defense, and industry to make it a success.  This collaboration includes regular engagement with the Wireless Innovation Forum (WinnForum) to complete the standards and the certification framework for the Spectrum Access System (SAS) and Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) that will work together to control the CBRS devices in the field.

The WinnForum standards define the parameters for protection of federal radar systems. WinnForum recently delivered the certification software that ITS is reviewing and validating. Assuming all goes well over the 60-day review period, we could move to SAS certification testing in the near future, which I know many of you are looking forward to. We will also have ESC compliance testing.  The combination of SAS, ESCs, and Dynamic Protection Areas (DPA) is a complicated sharing framework.  DPAs will replace static exclusion zones that principally cover coastal areas in order to protect shipborne radars, as well as protect other federal equities such as radio-quiet zones, including the ITS-managed Table Mountain in Colorado.

Instead of initial large coastal exclusion zones, which appeared necessary to protect the navy radars, we have moved toward DPAs enabled by SAS and ESC technologies.  This will maximize the commercial potential of this band while not losing the assurance that incumbent military radar systems will be protected.  This is truly a win-win.

The 3.5 GHz sharing model also demonstrates a means of introducing more dynamic sharing while still protecting sensitive information regarding federal systems and operations, largely through the introduction of the ESC.  NTIA’s efforts to make spectrum available for commercial use go beyond the 3.5 GHz band.  For example, we are working with the Department of Defense to evaluate whether a band neighboring the CBRS band, 3450-3550 MHz, could support the introduction of commercial wireless services without harming current federal operations.

Higher up the spectrum chart, NTIA is supporting efforts to make spectrum available in the millimeter wave range, above 24 GHz, the “Spectrum Frontiers” bands, as the FCC calls them.  The Spectrum Frontiers bands are a key focus for 5G. Due to the technical characteristics of this band, the propagation distances generally are very short. On the other hand, because a lot of spectrum can be made available, large channel blocks will support applications requiring wide channels such as very high resolution video. To put it more simply, if you’ve ever been frustrated by your ability to download a large video on your iPad or other tablet, 5G is going to help to speed that up.

Fixed deployments are coming first, including home broadband access options, but mobile is definitely on the table. These bands also will be useful for the aggregation of 5G and Internet of Things traffic.  NTIA worked closely with the FCC on the agenda item the Commission adopted last Thursday that moves additional Spectrum Frontiers bands closer to availability and proposes additional study of how we best accommodate current and future federal operations in a number of these bands.  And the U.S. government isn't stopping there!  The FCC is also looking at spectrum above 95 GHz in its “Spectrum Horizons” proceeding.

For low-band, the Spectrum Pipeline Act requires NTIA to identify for auction 30 megahertz of federal spectrum below 3 GHz by 2022, and also to identify an additional 100 megahertz beyond that. As part of this effort, NTIA, along with OMB and the FCC, has been evaluating proposed “Pipeline Plans” submitted by federal agencies.  Two have been approved and funded, one for the 1300-1350 MHz band and the other for 1675-1680 MHz.

A Sense of Urgency

These efforts demonstrate that, with the FCC and our other federal partners, we continue to respond rapidly to meet market demand for spectrum.  Still, with 5G on the way, we share the sense of urgency many of you feel.  Congress also demonstrated its sense of purpose and urgency on spectrum policy. The MOBILE NOW section of Ray Baum’s Act, signed into law as part of the budget deal, includes a provision directing NTIA to research incentives for agencies to relinquish or share spectrum, and it also requires a study of “bidirectional” sharing, which could allow federal agencies to share existing non-federal bands.

Meanwhile, the President’s Budget for FY19 includes a proposal to authorize NTIA to administer leases of federal spectrum to non-federal users.  This is still very much a proposal at this point, and many details need to be sorted out, but it has great potential. The idea is to add more tools to the toolbox to help put underutilized spectrum to use, while maximizing the economic value of spectrum and protecting federal spectrum users.

NTIA also has an important role to play in ensuring that U.S. spectrum policy supports the President’s goals for commercial space activity.  As outlined in the President’s Space Policy Directive issued last month, NTIA will be supporting the development of a Department of Commerce and White House report on how spectrum policy activities can further U.S. leadership in space commerce. 

Our agency also plays a pivotal role in international spectrum policymaking, principally through its coordination of the federal agencies’ participation in preparations for ITU meetings, particularly the World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRCs) that take place roughly every four years.  These are global, treaty-level inter-governmental conferences that update the rules for international spectrum allocations and satellite orbital slots. To echo Secretary Ross, it is important that all of us with a stake in these matters work together to develop and advance unified, balanced proposals to ensure U.S. success at the WRC in 2019.

I’m looking forward to our panel discussion to help us move forward on the goals and principles I have laid out, as well as bring out other areas for consideration.  NTIA has a rich history across the communications policy landscape of drawing on diverse stakeholder input, relying on your expertise to help us arrive at decisions and actions that benefit the American public. Our efforts must empower American companies to continue developing and deploying innovative technologies.  It is the key to sustaining U.S. leadership, growing the economy and providing good, high-paying jobs for our citizens. Thank you.