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Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Commerce Karen Dunn Kelley at the Spectrum Policy Symposium

September 10, 2019

-- As Prepared for Delivery --

Thank you Diane for that kind introduction and good morning.

On behalf of Secretary Ross, who is currently wrapping up an overseas trip to Turkey and Greece, I am very pleased to kick-off NTIA’s second annual spectrum symposium. 

We created this forum for you, our stakeholders – from both inside and outside the government – to discuss how our nation should manage radiofrequency spectrum.

Everyone gathered here today knows that strategic management of spectrum is critical for promoting economic growth, safeguarding our national security, advancing our scientific understanding, and preserving American leadership in innovation.

We are witnessing ever growing demands for our limited spectrum resources as a result of new technology, particularly in the fields of 5G cell service and space commerce.

Effectively managing these new demands will require input from and close coordination with our executive branch partners, including the FCC, and our private sector stakeholders. I am happy to see so many interested groups here today, gathered in one room. 

My goal this morning is to share with you this Administration’s vision for a comprehensive and long-term spectrum policy for the 21st century.

When Secretary Ross spoke at our first spectrum symposium last year, he highlighted the critical role that spectrum plays in our economy and job creation. 

It’s been 15 months since that symposium, but many of his predictions on 5G and space commerce are already coming to fruition.

Smartphone developers are delivering the first 5G-capable phones to consumer markets. Our nation’s four national wireless carriers have each deployed 5G network service in select cities – and as I learned watching Sunday football, even in some NFL stadiums!

In these early stage networks, 5G smartphones are already achieving speeds that are 10 to 40 times as fast as typical 4G LTE speeds.

As these networks become more widely available, we expect innovators will continue to create more powerful 5G consumer devices and establish new types of businesses and services.
In space, the first non-geostationary satellite “mega-constellations” are being readied, and operators are preparing new space-based services. The first satellites have already been launched and have achieved initial operating milestones. 

If these constellations become fully operational, thousands of satellites will deliver high-speed, low-latency, and low-cost broadband connectivity to every square inch of the planet.
Just think, once complete, nearly one-half of the world’s population could have access to broadband internet for the very first time.

Last October, President Trump issued a memorandum defining the Administration’s long-term, comprehensive approach to spectrum policy. This began a body of work by the White House, NTIA, and other agencies that continues to this day. 

One task for federal agencies has been to identify their current spectrum usage and also to define their anticipated future needs over the next 15 years.

Later this fall, the White House will release the National Spectrum Strategy, called for by President Trump’s memorandum. 

The strategy will clarify our long-term approach that incorporates planning, innovation, and collaboration with many of the agencies in attendance today. And it will detail a path for realizing the President’s vision of a long-term spectrum infrastructure that sustains American technological dominance.

The President has made clear that we need a comprehensive spectrum management regime to achieve our national goals.  

First, we must dedicate enough spectrum to meet the growing demand for 5G wireless services. 
The United States successfully led the world in the deployment of 4G LTE technology, which revolutionized the use of phones in our everyday lives. Just as we did with 4G, we must lead the world in 5G deployment. 

This will require that we deliver the spectrum necessary for innovation and that the American telecom industry deliver the investments necessary to get us over the finish line.

Second, we must accelerate our efforts to make the United States the preeminent leader for space commerce. 

Morgan Stanley predicts that annual revenue for the space industry will exceed $1.1 trillion by the year 2040, so it is no surprise that more than 80 countries are competing to be the industry’s primary home.

We must ensure that the U.S. is the “flag of choice” for space commerce, and this means we need a simplified regulatory and spectrum environment that encourages innovation. 

A major goal for the Department of Commerce is to set up a “one-stop-shop” bureau that the space industry can turn-to for all its regulatory needs. 

In addition, NTIA must work with our federal partners to provide the satellite industry with sufficient access to radio frequency spectrum.

We want to increase not just the number of satellites in space, but also the variety of functions that they will perform. This robust growth of satellites will improve our connectivity in the skies and ignite economic growth back here at home.

Finally, we must protect the spectrum resources used by the government keep us safe and improve our quality of life.

The U.S. government is the most sophisticated consumer of spectrum in the world. Our armed forces, law enforcement agencies, scientists, and engineers all rely on spectrum to successfully serve the public. By protecting critical spectrum resources, we ensure that our military remains strong and our scientific understanding remains second to none.

In our competitive world, our country does not have the luxury of pursuing only some of these priorities. We must pursue and achieve all of them, which will require the ingenuity and close coordination between NTIA and all our federal partners. 

There are many reasons to be optimistic.

The U.S. has allocated nearly 5.9 gigahertz of spectrum for licensed, exclusive use for 5G technology. This is more than any other country on Earth – and we’re not finished yet.

An additional 7 gigahertz of spectrum is actively under study for licensed use. This means, in theory, we could have nearly 13 gigahertz allotted for 5G in the near future.

To complement licensed spectrum, over 14 gigahertz of unlicensed spectrum is available for use across low-, mid-, and high-bands – each with their own technical advantages. 

Just as WiFi was developed using unlicensed spectrum, we are confident that these unlicensed allocations, particularly in the high-band range, will unleash a wide range of new applications, including virtual reality.

I also want to point out progress we’ve made in the 3.5 gigahertz band, known as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service. 

Our scientists and engineers have made huge strides building a model that allows both commercial and federal users to share the 3.5 GHz band in real time. 

NTIA’s Charles Cooper will discuss these developments in greater detail later, but I want to emphasize that this kind of innovation paves the way for new and exciting commercial investment. This means we are ever closer to enabling technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications, and driverless cars.

We are also working to speed up the delivery of satellite broadband solutions to global markets.
The Department’s Office of Space Commerce is actively working with private sector and Congressional stakeholders to streamline regulations governing the satellite launch process.
In March, NTIA submitted a report to the President with 13 specific recommendations to improve the long-term spectrum policy environment for commercial space operators.

These policy actions will open the door for a new generation of satellites that can provide high speed internet access to remote locations. It also means a new, wireless path to realizing the President’s goal of affordable and reliable broadband connectivity for rural America.

The hallmark of the Trump administration’s approach is to view spectrum resources as a strategic asset for our economy and national security. 

This means we must take a comprehensive, whole-of-government view on how to use spectrum and how to best unleash the power of spectrum-based technologies for the private sector.

To accomplish this, our whole-of-government approach must follow several major principles.
The first of which is balance. We must balance the competing needs of all major equities to reach all of our national goals. This means not just 5G and space commerce, but also critical national security and scientific exploration missions. 

This balance approach will produce a rising tide that lifts all boats. For example, the Department of Defense is already devoting resources to adopt 5G technologies for national security and private sector satellite technologies are interdependent with federal operations. 

The second principle is to think long-term and comprehensively. We must develop an over-arching framework that will address new spectrum demands not just for today, but for the century to come.
The third principle is to be innovative and pioneering. This requires us to think beyond the traditional model of one allocation for one licensee for one use.

You already see this kind of out-of-the-box thinking. One example is our work in the 3.5 GHz band, which I mentioned earlier today. 

You can also see it in the FirstNet network, which is under development. When completed, FirstNet will allow a national telecom provider and local public safety agencies to share a cutting-edge broadband network within a particular spectrum allocation.

Our final principle is collaboration. The success of our spectrum policy and management structure will require collaboration and creativity from all stakeholders: the White House, Congress, Federal departments and agencies, NTIA, the FCC, and the private sector. 

With these principles as our guiding light, we will build a strong foundation for effective and efficient spectrum policies.

The United States has always been a leader in developing wireless technologies, whether through the launch of a commercial satellite industry, or through our leadership in auctioning and licensing terrestrial mobile services.

This Administration is committed to maintaining this leadership, particularly on the new fronts of 5G and space commerce, and the President’s comprehensive and long-term approach to spectrum strategy will ensure that we are successful.

Again, thank you all for being here this morning, and I look forward to continuing our work together.