America has led the world in network innovation thanks to our smart spectrum policy. Since wireless operators first launched 5G service in 2019, 315 million Americans are now covered, a nationwide deployment that was twice as fast as 4G. The spectrum made available for 5G has meant more innovation and more competition, benefits that we are just beginning to see in the market.
Unfortunately, the FCC’s spectrum authority lapsed on March 9 of this year, creating uncertainty that could delay investment and future network upgrades. To continue to lead the world and reap the benefits of network innovation, lawmakers must provide the telecommunications industry with a clear path forward on making spectrum available.
Fortunately, the House Energy and Commerce Committee just voted unanimously to move forward a bill that would restore the FCC’s spectrum authority. Granting the FCC authority to plan and hold future spectrum auctions is the first step to creating a robust spectrum pipeline, and lawmakers in both chambers should prioritize reauthorizing the FCC to do its job.
5G use cases like private wireless networks and fixed wireless access (FWA) are picking up steam, reshaping manufacturing, healthcare, and how we view broadband. In 2022, FWA captured 90% of net broadband ads. In Q1 of this year, T-Mobile and Verizon added an incredible 915,000 fixed wireless subscribers. The explosion of FWA, driven by the availability of spectrum for commercial use, has made it possible to connect more people in a shorter amount of time and has provided consumers with more options for quality home internet.
The FWA explosion this past year is just the beginning of how 5G will drive innovation and competition. These advancements were made possible by the added capacity of 5G spectrum that the carriers were able to acquire through the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) spectrum auctions. To fully realize the benefits of 5G and lead the world in next generation network technology, more spectrum needs to be made available on a regular basis for commercial use.
On a similar wavelength, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is working to develop a national spectrum strategy, which will be crucial to ensuring the effective use of spectrum and building a robust spectrum pipeline. As WIA highlighted in its comments to NTIA, a national spectrum strategy that prioritizes an aggressive timeline for making more spectrum available for commercial use is vital to meeting consumer demand and maintaining America’s economic leadership.
By granting the FCC spectrum auction authority and creating a smart national spectrum strategy that prioritizes a robust spectrum pipeline, America can continue to lead the world in innovation that will drive our economy forward and benefit consumers.
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