The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) held its second Spectrum Policy Symposium on September 10th at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The Symposium provided a high-level forum for government and commercial actors to discuss national spectrum needs and ongoing efforts for the strategic management of spectrum in the United States. Panelists addressed growing demands for 5G, the need to bridge the digital divide, regulatory and spectrum uncertainty, and safety concerns as we move towards a more shared use of spectrum.

At the opening keynote address, U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Karen Dunn Kelley discussed the Trump administration’s vision on spectrum policy for the 21st century, which aims to enable U.S. leadership in both 5G development and space commerce. Kelley praised the recent allocation of 5.9 GHz of spectrum exclusively to 5G – more than any other country in the world – and expressed confidence that the 14 GHz of unlicensed spectrum also made available will unleash a wide range of new applications. She suggested that leadership in space commerce requires a streamlined regulatory environment to encourage innovation. Finally, she advocated for a “whole of government” approach based on four principles: balance of competing needs, long-term and comprehensive thinking, innovation and pioneering, and collaboration.

The second keynote presentation was given by Charles Cooper, NTIA’s associate administrator for the office of spectrum management, who spoke on NTIA’s role in establishing spectrum policy and on implementing the administration’s spectrum goals as set out in the presidential memorandum last fall. He reiterated Kelley’s praise of efforts to clear spectrum for terrestrial services and for unlicensed use, and described NTIA’s plan for reviewing current federal use of spectrum across all agencies.

The symposium continued with a set of two panel sessions. The first, with panelists representing government agencies that are key federal spectrum users, addressed their perspectives on challenges and concerns in managing spectrum use, as well as collaboration between federal and non-federal entities. The first panel discussion primarily focused on the President’s spectrum memo and the subsequent efforts by government agencies to write and publish their respective spectrum plans. Panelists expressed the chief priorities for spectrum usage by their organizations, and how those priorities fit into the President’s vision for a National Spectrum plan.

The efficient use and sharing of spectrum was the common thread in responses to the questions of both the moderator and the audience, with panelists detailing their organizations’ efforts to more effectively use and share spectrum with the private sector, including Ian Atkins, representing the FAA, pointing out that they will actually be reducing their spectrum usage as automation and modernization of spectrum based technologies continues, while maintaining their focus on preserving and increasing the safety of air travel. Another panelist, Col. Williams, emphasized how essential efficient spectrum usage and sharing is for national defense, and commended the innovative Dynamic Protection Area (DPA) approach recently employed in the 3550-3700 MHz Band.

In the second panel discussion, private sector experts addressed how they see their organizations’ roles in spectrum and policy impacting their futures. The panelists discussed in-depth the challenge that making the transition to 5G technology poses to spectrum sharing and the need for further innovation and deep collaboration with regulators and other industry partners to ensure that 5G deployment is expeditious, but smooth. Panelists emphasized the importance of Dynamic Service Sharing (DSS) to the deployment of 5G in areas where older technologies such as 4G are still being used and discussed the need for regulators to make updates where technological advancements have rendered the old rules obsolete.

Later this fall, the White House will release the comprehensive spectrum management strategy anticipated in this Symposium. The vision described by the presenters is a long-term spectrum infrastructure that sustains American technology and dominance. The participants were confident that with further innovation and automation, and close collaboration between all interested parties, the nation’s spectrum resources will be sufficient not only for government use but for the continued growth of every sector of industry that depends on wireless communication.