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CHAPTER VII - Roundtable Recommendations

To help the U.S. prepare for a 5G world, the Roundtable participants developed a set of recommendations in three categories—actions to increase the availability of needed spectrum; government policies to encourage deployment of 5G networks; and actions designed to promote adoption by underserved populations in order to create a more inclusive 5G “highway.” Participants also identified potential vehicles to enable these changes. Before making specific recommendations, the participants spelled out a set of core principles or assumptions that provide a rationale for action.

Demand is growing exponentially. As the number of users and uses continues to grow, there will continue to be strong demand for greater wireless capacity and higher performance networks. Policymakers need to act to provide additional spectrum and create an environment that encourages investment and innovation to meet this demand.
Maintaining U.S. leadership is important. The U.S. was one of the first countries in the world to deploy 4G (LTE) technology on a large scale and currently has one of the highest rates of 4G penetration. Being a leader in 4G networks has promoted innovation in mobile services, which has resulted in substantial economic benefits for the U.S. For the U.S. to remain economically competitive, the country needs to maintain its leadership role in deployment of next generation networks.
5G will be a platform for other platforms. As mobile access becomes important for more and more uses, wireless broadband provides the infrastructure that supports these applications. For example, a large portion of news and entertainment is now accessed by mobile devices and the “app economy” was made possible by the availability of wireless networks, and the same is true of the emerging Internet of Things. As pointed out previously, the world’s “mobile first” world, and with their enhanced capabilities, 5G networks are likely to further accelerate this trend. The ability of 5G to serve as a “platform for other platforms” represents a factor that substantially increases its strategic importance.
Higher frequency bands and new technologies raise new issues. One portion of 5G will use the same bands and similar technologies as the current generation (4G) of wireless networks, which means that traditional technical and policymaking approaches will continue to be relevant. But the ability of 5G to keep up with growing demand and to support advanced services will depend on the use of higher frequency bands with distinctively different technical characteristics than existing services (including much greater capacity along with much shorter range), which offer new challenges for policymakers. For example, how should geographic territories be defined in licensing 5G networks (e.g., Does granting licenses for designated “regions” still make sense)? What does it mean to have exclusive rights to a frequency band in an environment where signals are transmitted by narrow “pencil” beams over relatively short distances? What are the implications for allowable power levels? What are the best ways to avoid interference while promoting maximum efficiency in spectrum use? What are new opportunities for spectrum sharing?
Uncertainty vs. Need for action. Timely action by policymakers will be important to allow the U.S. to maintain its momentum in wireless innovation. But many questions about characteristics of and requirements for 5G networks remain unanswered. Therefore, a key challenge for policymakers will be to act in a timely manner in a way that does not prematurely lock in (or lock out) particular technology options and that encourages experimentation with and investment in development of multiple, competing services.

Specific recommendations from the AIRS participants are as follows:

I. Recommendations Related to Improving Spectrum Availability and Efficiency
One of the clearest yet most challenging tasks for policymakers involves providing sufficient spectrum to support robust development of 5G networks and to ensure that it is being used as efficiently as possible. It is important to keep in mind that 5G will involve a combination of licensed and unlicensed spectrum, in both low frequency and high frequency bands, and that the rules governing 5G will need to address all of these alternatives. The AIRS participants made a number of recommendations for actions to A.) increase the availability of spectrum, especially in the higher frequency bands, and B.) improve the efficiency of spectrum use.

A. Expanding Availability of Spectrum
The response to recent FCC auctions clearly demonstrated the extent of the demand for additional spectrum. The government may need to do more to identify additional opportunities for reallocating or sharing spectrum in order to fulfill President Obama’s 2010 directive to the NTIA, in consultation with the FCC, to take the lead in making a total of 500 MHz of Federal and non-Federal spectrum available by 2020. Recommendations from the AIRS group focused on efforts to spur additional action by agencies or commercial spectrum users, and on initiatives on specific bands, particularly for higher frequency spectrum that will be needed for 5G networks.

Reducing Timeline for Availability of Federal Spectrum
The Spectrum Relocation Fund (SPF) has played an important role in encouraging Federal agencies to repurpose spectrum and move applications to new bands by reimbursing them for costs associated with these activities. The recommendation from the AIRS group to further leverage the fund was incorporated in the Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2015 that was part of the end-of-the year budget deal between Congress and the Administration. The Act broadens the scope of reimbursable expenses, enabling agencies to use funds from the SRF to pay for research and related up-front activities that promise to increase spectrum efficiency and that could lead to repurposing of additional spectrum for commercial use. These modifications provide an additional $500 million in funding along with a mechanism to replenish the funding pool with proceeds from future actions.

Additional incentives may be needed to encourage federal agencies to do more. For example, proposed legislation titled Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless (MOBILE NOW), introduced after passage of the Spectrum Pipeline Act at the end of 2015, would encourage agencies to move more rapidly in identifying spectrum that could be repurposed by requiring them “to quantify the ‘opportunity cost’ of holding onto their spectrum rather than putting it into the hands of the private market.”

Opening Access to High Frequency Bands Needed For 5G Networks
In the past year, the FCC has turned its attention to higher-frequency spectrum bands that will be needed for 5G networks. In October 2014, the FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on “Use of Spectrum Bands above 24 GHz for Mobile Radio Services” that included both licensed and unlicensed bands. In the introduction to the NOI, the FCC noted that:

Industry and technical groups are beginning to examine the use of higher frequencies sometimes known as millimeter wave (mmW) bands for mobile use. This examination of the possible uses of the mmW bands for mobile use takes place within the context of broader efforts to develop technical standards for so-called Fifth Generation (5G) mobile services. In view of the technological and marketplace developments outlined in this item, we seek to discern what frequency bands above 24 GHz would be most suitable for mobile services, and to begin developing a record on mobile service rules and a licensing framework for mobile services in those bands.

The NOI went on to explain that even though the specifics of a 5G standard were not yet defined, it was expected that it would support much higher performance with a 1000-fold increase in capacity along with much higher transmission rates and much lower latency times. But the Commission acknowledged that achieving these benefits will involve exploring unfamiliar territory and raise novel regulatory issues since 5G:

…will likely require the development of new system architectures to include heterogeneous networks that will deliver service through multiple, widely-spaced frequency bands and diverse types of radio access technologies, including macrocells, microcells, device-to-device communications, new component technologies, and unlicensed as well as licensed transceivers. In this context, bands above 24 GHz are typically considered not for stand-alone mobile services but as supplementary channels to deliver ultra-high data rates in specific places, as one component of service packages that will likely include continued use of lower bands to ensure ubiquitous coverage and continuous system-wide coordination.

Just one year later, on October 22, 2015—at almost the same time that the AIRS meeting was taking place—the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that focused on several bands above 24 GHz that had been tentatively identified in the earlier NOI, portions of which are currently allocated for federal government use while others are allocated for commercial use.

The FCC’s overall goal in the NPRM is to “develop a flexible regulatory framework that will accommodate the widest possible variety of compatible services and will allow the market to determine the best possible uses of the mmW bands.” The FCC also explained that it had selected specific bands for action that 1) offered at least 500 MHz of continuous spectrum; 2) were being considered internationally for mobile services; 3) would be compatible with existing users and uses; and 4) were suitable for establishing a flexible regulatory framework that would accommodate a wide variety of uses.

Participants in the AIRS meeting, who were cognizant of the FCC’s pending action, made a series of recommendations for licensing changes in specific high frequency bands that were largely consistent with the FCC’s goals and generally paralleled the proposals in the NPRM (see Recommended Spectrum Licensing Actions: AIRS and FCC).

Recommendations from the AIRS participants related to these specific bands:

Recommended Spectrum Licensing Actions: AIRS and FCC

Band
Authorized uses/users
AIRS Recommendation
FCC NPRMOctober 22, 2015

28 GHz

Local Multipoint Distribution Services (LMDS)
Fixed Satellite Services (FSS)
No Federal use

- Should remain licensed
- Give existing licensees greater flexibility
- Auction very large overlay license for unassigned portion

*Need mechanism for hold-outs

We propose to authorize mobile operations in the 27.5-28.35 GHz band (28 GHz band) and the 38.6-40 GHz band (39 GHz band) with county-sized geographic area licenses. These bands could be suitable for deployment of high-capacity, high-throughput small cells as part of mobile broadband deployments. At the same time, we propose rules that would provide licensees with the flexibility to conduct fixed and/or mobile operations.

39 GHz

Fixed & Mobile Service
Fixed Satellite Service (FSS)
39.5-40 GHz is co-primary for federal use, both fixed and mobile satellite

37 GHz

Fixed and mobile Service
Space Research Service
Fixed Satellite Service
NASA, NSF and military satellite ground stations

- FCC grants secondary rights regarding indoor use to real property owners (or in the alternative, create an unlicensed band)

*Lawyers can litigate condo situations

We propose a hybrid licensing scheme that would grant operating rights by rule to property owners, while establishing geographic area licenses based on counties for outdoor use. This licensing mechanism would facilitate the deployment of advanced enterprise and industrial applications not suited to unlicensed spectrum or public network services, while also providing additional spectrum for more traditional cellular deployments.

Above 60 GHz

65-71 GHz authorized for Inter-Satellite Services (ISS), but none licensed now
No authorized non-Federal uses in 64-71 GHz; non-licensed use authorized in 57-64 GHz
Multiple Federal and non-Federal allocations

- Keep it as unlicensed
- Adopt Enhanced Experimentation Regime
- Allow greater experimentation in sensing and variable power
*Because it is localized, related to geography
*E.g., raising power level according to geographies
- Build on what FCC has done in 60 GHz band

We propose to authorize operations in the 64-71 GHz band under Part 15 of our rules [for unlicensed low-power transmitters] based on the rules we recently adopted for the adjacent 57-64 GHz band. This action will provide more spectrum for unlicensed uses such as Wi-Fi-like “WiGig” operations.

28 GHz and 39 GHz Bands. The portion of the 28 GHz band that the FCC is proposing to make available for “flexible use” (27.5-28.35 GHz) is primarily being used today for satellite uplinks and Local Multipoint Distribution Service (LMDS), a fixed, wireless point-to-multipoint technology that the FCC originally envisioned being used for digital television and data distribution (“wireless cable”), but eventually became a point-to-point wireless backhaul service.1 In 1998 and 1999, the FCC held auctions for two LMDS licenses in each of 493 “basic trading areas” (BTAs) across the country. But despite high initial expectations for the technology, LDMS was not particularly successful and has been largely superseded by LTE (4G cellular) and WiMax services. Fixed satellite service (FSS) that involves transmission of programming from geostationary satellites to radio or television stations is designated as a secondary use for the band, and the FCC has granted licenses for 47 ground stations that serve as FSS gateways or uplinks. There are currently no primary Federal government allocations in this band.2

The 39 GHz band (38.6-40 GHz) has “co-primary allocation” for both fixed and mobile services, although the FCC previously held off authorizing mobile uses “until it conducted a separate proceeding to resolve…interference issues.” Among other things, the band is currently used to provide fixed wireless backhaul. The Department of Defense and NASA have fixed (FSS) and mobile satellite systems (MSS) in 39.5-40 GHz.

The AIRS participants recommend that these bands should remain licensed, but that commercial license holders should be given additional flexibility to add mobile services, which was consistent with the proposed FCC rules. (In early 2016, Verizon leased LMDS and 39 GHz licenses from XO Communications in a number of markets in order to use for 5G testing.)

In addition to granting mobile rights to existing fixed service operators, the AIRS group noted that there is still a lot of unassigned spectrum in this band, and therefore, the FCC should make available a large overlay license for the unassigned portion of the band. (Such a license would grant the right to operate in the band in a given geographic region but would require the recipient to protect existing licensees' operations from harmful interference.)

37 GHz band. The 37 GHz band (37 GHz to 38.6 GHz) has no commercial users and the FCC has not adopted any terrestrial services rules for non-Federal operations in this band. It contains 1.6 GHz of contiguous spectrum that could support high data-rate transmissions. Current Federal users include NASA, which operates receiving earth stations in the band; NSF, which supports receiving stations for scientific observations; and the military. Although there are currently no commercial satellite users in this band, satellite operators have expressed opposition to mobile uses to protect their interest in possible future use of this band.

The AIRS group proposes that the FCC should grant secondary rights (in relation to Federal users) to real property owners for indoor use. Participants acknowledged that determining exactly how such rights would be implemented could be complicated, particularly in the case of condominiums where multiple owners live directly adjacent to one another and share ownership of common spaces. (Some AIRS participants questioned whether this concept was a good idea.)

60 GHz and Above. Unlicensed operations are allowed by the FCC in the 57-64 GHz band under Part 15 of its rules, while the band from 65-71 GHz has been identified as available for ISS satellite licenses (although none are currently in use). The AIRS recommendation is to keep this band unlicensed, but also to develop an “enhanced experimentation regime” that would encourage experiments in such things as the use of signal sensing and variable power levels. For example, it could be interesting to test the value of raising power limits in rural areas where there are few competing services. Because these very high frequency signals will be very short range, trying out such experimental uses should carry little risk of causing damage to others.

Establishing a “Post Incentive Auction Incentive Auction”
The FCC’s first “incentive auction” is intended to encourage broadcast television license holders to voluntarily relinquish their spectrum usage rights in exchange for a share of the proceeds from the auction. First proposed in the 2010 National Broadband Plan and authorized by Congress in 2012, the Broadcast Incentive Auction is taking place in 2016. The total number of television stations that will end up selling their spectrum and going off the air depends on a rather complex set of formulas that the FCC is using to conduct the “reverse auction.” In some markets, just one station may be involved, while in other markets, up to half the stations in operation may be affected.

This auction will play a useful role in expanding the amount of spectrum available for other purposes, including 5G services, but it is unlikely to completely satisfy the demand for additional spectrum because it will not provide large amounts of very high frequency bandwidth. Therefore, the AIRS group recommends two further actions to follow this auction: First, immediately after conclusion of the Broadcast Incentive Auction, the FCC should commence a new proceeding to determine if action is needed to actively encourage private transactions between broadcasters who retain spectrum and other potential users. Second, not less than five years after the commencement of the Broadcast Incentive Auction, the Commission should schedule a date for another auction—a Post Incentive Auction Incentive Auction (PIAIA)—in coordination with a proceeding that would set a new broadcast standard that would enable broadcasters to deliver next generation (4K/8K) video while reducing bandwidth requirements for broadcast TV. The group also proposed that if the FCC found that over-the-air transmission of television programming accounted for less than a specified portion of all video distribution (including online video distribution), all remaining broadcast spectrum would be put up for mandatory auction, with the proceeds split between the license holders and the Federal Government under a formula for auction revenue sharing determined by the FCC. (This last proposal was somewhat controversial with some participants expressing concern about the impact of such an action on even a relatively small number of people who remain dependent on access to over-the-air broadcasts.)

B. Improving Efficiency in Spectrum Use
In addition to making more spectrum available, the AIRS participants made several recommendations related to improving the use of existing spectrum:

Increasing Spectrum Sharing with the Federal Government
The concept that portions of the spectrum should be, and can be, shared in order to meet the demand for wireless connectivity is now well accepted. As Paige Atkins, Associate Administrator for the Office of Spectrum Management at NTIA, put it, “As I think everyone is aware, the way forward is largely sharing.” Although exclusive licensing will continue to be preferable for some uses, the ability to optimize spectrum use across the entire user base will almost certainly involve expanded sharing between federal and non-federal users. The Spectrum Relocation Fund (discussed above) provides incentives for federal agencies to clear portions of spectrum they control and make it available for other uses.

To date, most of the discussion around spectrum sharing has been focused on encouraging government agencies to share spectrum they control with private sector users. For example, the AWS-3 auction that took place in 2014/15 included bidding on shared use rights in two bands (1695-1710 MHz and 1755-1780 MHz), and following the auction, NTIA set up an online portal to facilitate sharing of the 1695-1710 MHz band between carriers and federal agencies.

But spectrum sharing could be a two-way street: The AIRS participants called for the creation of incentives that would encourage private sector users to share their bands with the Federal Government. Such sharing would potentially lead to greater opportunities for repurposing spectrum for additional commercial access and could be used to satisfy localized Federal spectrum requirements that cannot be met by current Federal allocations. Possible incentives for private users to share with the government could include making such sharing count toward build out or renewal milestones for FCC licenses, or perhaps providing some kind of bidding credit or other financial incentive in exchange for making spectrum available for sharing. Another avenue could be to provide for secondary market leases for government access to commercially licensed spectrum via some kind of standardized agreement and nominal cost.

Speeding Up Development of Service, Licensing and Tech Rules
As the rate of technological change has increased, government agencies have struggled to develop and implement regulations quickly enough to keep pace. As a result, private sector companies eager to move ahead with new initiatives may be forced to wait until the regulatory environment is clarified. Although the government will not drive development of 5G technologies, at a minimum it should be responsible for making decisions in a sufficiently timely manner as to not hold back investments in its development. And as discussed below, government can also play a useful role in removing obstacles to the deployment of 5G networks.

Fast Tracking License Modifications
Since so many spectrum bands could potentially be part of 5G networks, for which demand seems virtually insatiable, the practical effect of 5G is to put all licenses in play. One means of promoting continued innovation is to provide greater flexibility in licensing schemes. Making it easier to modify an existing license to accommodate changing requirements will encourage new investments, reduce rent seeking behavior from incumbents, and shorten the time required to get to a final decision.

The AIRS group proposed development of a new License Modification Scheme that would allow any license holder to petition the FCC for a modification which would be deemed granted unless it were denied within six months. In cases where the proposed modification raised “complicated engineering issues,” the Commission could extend the deadline for action by an additional three months.

Creating Certainty in Spectrum Enforcement
The problem of spectrum interference has become more complicated as the wireless operating environment has become more complex and dynamic, and changes may be needed to make spectrum enforcement more effective. A 2013 meeting of spectrum experts convened by the Silicon Flatirons Center at the University of Colorado noted that technological advances have led to the development of systems and devices that “operate with virtually unlimited numbers of waveforms…make concurrent use of multiple system architectures…and produce more ‘noise-like’ broadband digital signals that are often harder to detect, decipher, identify, and locate at a distance”—all of which can complicate the problem of enforcement. The group concluded that “the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau is under resourced to adequately address radio spectrum issues, more resources must be committed to interference enforcement, and better distinctions need to be made about jurisdiction.” Finally, the Flatirons meeting called for development of a new “a taxonomy of spectrum interference” to help guide the development of new regulations and new enforcement mechanisms.

Addressing Receiver Issues
Interference problems in wireless communications often come from transmissions on an assigned band that “leak” or “spill over” into an adjacent channel. In order to optimize spectrum use and avoid the need for wide separation between spectrum users, the FCC requires manufacturers to incorporate filters in transmitters designed to minimize interference. However, even when adjacent signals that are operating legally within their assigned bands, interference can also arise due to poor filtering in receivers. But the FCC has never regulated the performance of receivers.

Improving efficiency of spectrum use will require dealing with the performance of receivers as well as transmitters. But regulating 5G receivers will be challenging since they will be increasingly complex: they will operate over multiple bands spread out widely in frequency, will operate over a far greater number of channels with widely different types of signals within these dispersed bands, and will even receive more than one channel simultaneously in order to improve performance by combining data being received on two channels (i.e., channel bonding). This means that to be effective, filters will need to be more complex, but they can play an important role in improving spectrum use.3

II. Recommendations Related to Accelerating Development and Deployment of 5G Networks
Beyond providing additional spectrum, the government can play other roles in facilitating the development new technologies in order to meet a range of policy goals. As noted above, the large and continually growing role of wireless communications in the country’s social, political and economic lives provides a particularly strong rationale for action to encourage timely development of 5G networks. The AIRS participants developed specific recommendations for government action that would focus on promoting investment in 5G technologies, and facilitating deployment of 5G networks, mainly by removing unnecessary barriers.

Investing in 5G Research
The U.S. government can help accelerate the development of 5G through the direct investment of public funds in some targeted areas:

Facilitating 5G Deployment
The 5G networks of the future will be different in some important ways from previous generations of wireless technology. For one thing, there will be distinct differences between those portions of 5G networks that operate below 6GHz and components that operate in the bands above 6GHz. Below 6 GHz, they will be relatively similar to existing 4G networks; but above 6 GHZ, the physical properties of higher frequency bands will lead to different economics, including higher costs, and greater device demands.

One of the most distinctive challenges of building out 5G networks will involve extending the current practice of “densifying” 4G networks by deploying much small cells. With 5G, there will be a need to deploy an unprecedented number of small cells in addition to deploying additional cellular towers that provide wide area wireless coverage. Network providers will need greater access to individual buildings, and very likely to multiple locations within buildings—to install high performance network points of presence which will need to be supported by high capacity backhaul facilities.

Because of these considerations, deployment of 5G may be much less uniform than previous generations of wireless networks, with the highest performance (and highest cost) elements likely to be limited, at least initially, to locations where demand for service is greatest. This could include commercial facilities, hospitals, stadiums, etc., rather than blanketing a given geographical area.

Specific recommendations to improve and streamline the process of 5G deployment are:

III. Recommendations to Promote Wide Adoption of 5G Offerings
Concerns about a “digital divide” have persisted for many years. As with earlier technologies, there are a number of groups who are likely to be “left behind” by the emergence of 5G networks. Among those who will be most affected are:

  • Consumers for whom affordability is an issue and by whom the value proposition for 5G is not clearly understood
  • Consumers who lack trust in the technology and in the marketplace
  • Isolated and low-density population areas, i.e., rural residents impacted by a rural-urban “capacity divide” (as with 4G and landline broadband).

The introduction of new higher performance access that depends on high-frequency, shorter-range technologies will raise additional issues: the economics will change and potentially contribute to increased subscriber costs; mechanical access to premises becomes more complicated, as do demands on access devices; and backhaul becomes more expensive. As a result, developing business cases for use, particularly by “ordinary” consumers, will become more difficult, and we are likely to see more uneven deployment of 5G networks based on highly localized needs.

These new technological factors may further exacerbate the disparities between those who benefit from the technology and those who are left behind, with particular concern for:

  • Those with lower income and in more remote locations
  • Communities without access to sufficient backhaul capacity
  • Communities where 5G could be beneficial (beyond video) for uses such as telemedicine or economic development, but that lack the market size to justify private investment.

A final set of recommendations focused on actions to address these concerns and to ensure that all segments of society, especially underserved populations and regions, have opportunities to adopt and use 5G networks.

Leverage Universal Service Funds to Expand 5G Adoption
The concept of providing “universal service” for all Americans is an old one, dating back more than a century. The 1934 Communications Act provided the FCC with the mandate of ensuring that communication services were available to “all the people of the United States,” and the 1996 Telecommunications Act created the Universal Service Fund (USF) and directed the FCC to use these funds to “increase nationwide access to advanced telecommunications services.” In 2014, the USF fund distributed a total of $7.8 billion.

The AIRS group identified several ways in which the USF could be leveraged to expand access to 5G networks. In particular, they focused on two components of the USF, the Lifeline and E-Rate programs:

  • Enhance Lifeline program to cover 5G networks. The lifeline program provides a subsidy to low-income Americans for a landline or cell phone service. As of 2012, 17 million households received a subsidy through the program. As wireless broadband becomes more important in people’s lives and as the use of landlines continues to decrease, it makes sense for the Lifeline program to help pay for more advanced services such as 5G, perhaps by expanding the FCC’s Low-Income Broadband Pilot Program. (Another possibility would be to encourage private sector programs for 5G network access similar to Comcast’s Internet Essentials program that has provided more than 500,000 low income families with low-cost broadband Internet connections.)
  • Modify E-Rate rules to expand 5G infrastructure reach and adoption. The FCC’s E-Rate program has played a significant role in enabling virtually all public schools and libraries in the U.S. to get connected to the Internet. But these institutions often become islands of connectivity in communities where broadband access remains limited. To overcome this problem, the AIRS participants recommended that the rules for E-Rate subsidies for fiber construction (self-provisioning) be modified to incentivize anchor institutions like schools and libraries to serve as interconnection points for the private sector or others in their communities in need of fiber access. These institutions would be allowed to sell their excess fiber at market rates in order to fund programs that close the “homework gap” by helping students who lack connectivity at home to get online, providing digital literacy training, or paying for tablets or other access devices for students.

Provide federal funding for a BTOP II
The Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), which was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act enacted in 2009, provided $7.2 billion to support expanded deployment of broadband networks in the U.S. The largest portion of these funds was devoted to infrastructure grants to “deliver broadband service through last mile or middle mile facilities to unserved and underserved [i.e., mostly rural] areas.” As next-generation 5G networks begin to be rolled out, it may make sense to establish a new fund that would help ensure that these advanced facilities are deployed across the entire country.

One possibility suggested by the AIRS participants for areas that lack adequate access to fiber where there is no economic case for private investment in building backhaul capacity was for the government to provide public funds to pay for construction of middle mile fiber on an open access basis. Funding could come from a “leaseback program” where users would pay back the construction costs to enable the program to operate with no loss.

Encourage Adoption Of 5G Networks within Key Vertical Industry Sectors
Much of the value that advanced 5G networks will provide will be realized by enhancing the connectivity within specific sectors of the economy—healthcare, education, manufacturing, energy, agriculture, hospitality, transportation, etc. Think, for example, about the impact of rapidly emerging Internet of Things that will allow all sorts of companies and organizations to connect with and coordinate vast networks of devices or other elements on which their operations depend. Or the benefits of providing pervasive, seamless high-speed connectivity throughout a hospital or medical center, or within a large university or corporate campus. Or the potential gains in efficiency that will come from linking multiple systems in “smart cities.”

Although use cases and adoption curves will differ greatly from sector to sector, they all share a common interest in taking advantage of the new capabilities that 5G networks will offer. And while each industry bears responsibility for advancing its own interests, it may make sense to support targeted pilots that can help assess the 5G value proposition for verticals (such as healthcare or education) that clearly have pubic interest benefits, as well as in industry segments that drive economic development.

IV. Vehicles for Action
Finally, the AIRS participants identified several possible mechanisms, other than already well-established regulatory rulemaking procedures, that could be helpful in focusing attention of 5G issues. One option would be a report on the potential of 5G that would update the National Broadband Plan (NBP) that was released by the FCC in 2010. Although the original Plan did deal with wireless issues—its recommendations included expanding spectrum access, implementing a “dig once” policy, and establishing a Mobility Fund—it was published at a time when the prevailing wireless standard was 3G and just before 4G was launched in the U.S. The AIRS group took note of the fact that a written report has several inherent limitations: it is not dynamic and cannot adopt to changing circumstances (which is why an update of the NBP may now be needed), and a plan is not self-executing and runs the risk of simply being put on a shelf to gather dust. Still, a plan that contains specific actionable recommendations and has constituency to back it can be an effective tool for galvanizing action, as was the case with several spectrum recommendations from the NBP that were successfully implemented.

An alternative strategy that might be more impactful would be to task a multi-stakeholder group with identifying needed actions and then working to support the timely development, deployment and adoption of 5G networks. Several different types of groups were identified: One option would be to create a high level public/private executive committee to recommend actions by the FCC and other agencies and the administration as well as to propose needed legislation in support of 5G network development. A second option would be to establish a joint federal/state/local board that would be specifically charged with recommending actions for overcoming potential obstacles to the deployment of the large number of small cells that will be a distinctive component of 5G networks.

A third option would be to continue to build on the accomplishments of the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee (CSMAC), whose stated mission is to provide NTIA with “advice and recommendation on a broad range of spectrum-related issues.” The Committee, which is made up of approximately two dozen “spectrum policy experts” from private industry, academia, and public interest groups, was set up in 2004 but made its most important contribution when it was asked by the NTIA Administrator to make recommendations for reallocating significant amounts of federally-controlled spectrum for commercial use. The Committee formed working groups, each of which focused on specific spectrum bands (including 1695-1710 MHz and 1755-1850 MHz). In 2013, the working groups issued a set of reports to the FCC that contained detailed roadmaps for reallocating spectrum in those bands. These efforts provided the basis for the FCC’s AWS-3 auction, which represented an important step in opening new spectrum for private use. Going forward, this group could be asked to focus on key spectrum issues related to 5G, including making additional federal spectrum available and addressing issues related to the compatibility of shared spectrum.


1 The United States sought mobile allocation at WRC-15, but did not get. The U.S. appears to be attempting to forge ahead independently.
2 The United States attempted to approval for a mobile allocation for this band at WRC-15, but was not successful. In this case, the U.S. may be attempting to forge an independent path.
3 Thanks to Dale Hatfield for providing this explanation to Dale Hatfield. Professor Hatfield has been a long-time advocate for the FCC “doing something” about receiver issues.

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