Government Must Embrace President’s Leadership on Spectrum

June 25, 2013

President Obama understands the importance of wireless broadband to the economy and the need to ensure that spectrum is available to fuel this economic engine.  In a June 14, 2013 memorandum entitled “Expanding America’s Leadership in Wireless Innovation,” the President acknowledged that a combination of American entrepreneurship and innovation, private investment, and smart policy has made the United States the global leader in wireless broadband technologies. The memorandum confirms the President’s long-held position that additional spectrum for commercial uses is essential to sustain this growth and benefit consumers. 

To meet the Administration’s goal of freeing up 500 MHz of spectrum for broadband services, the memorandum directs wireless industry representatives and federal agencies to continue and expand their ongoing discussions on repurposing certain federal spectrum bands. The President’s memorandum is an unprecedented recognition of the need for close collaboration between industry and government to develop solutions for meeting the spectrum needs of both the public and private sectors, and it creates a foundation for a bright future of wireless innovation led by the United States. However, for this future to be successful, we must seize the opportunity for near term success that can advance the trust and commitment necessary to build a new spectrum management paradigm. 

T-Mobile and a group of wireless companies recently presented an Industry Roadmap that provides a clear plan for industry/government collaboration and technology advances envisioned by the President. The roadmap takes a comprehensive look at the 1755-1850 MHz band and lays out a path for making the 1755-1780 MHz portion available in time to be paired and auctioned with the 2155-2180 MHz band to meet a congressionally mandated deadline of licensing by February 2015. Auctioning this paired spectrum will provide significant broadband capacity while raising billions of dollars in revenue that could be used to update government systems, fund a public safety broadband network, and reduce our national debt. By contrast, missing the opportunity to pair these bands would result in billions of dollars of lost auction revenue, be a blow to innovation and the economy, and set back the current industry/government efforts by years.  

While the roadmap takes a comprehensive look at the entire 1755-1850 MHz band and proposes a near-term path for making the 1755-1780 MHz portion available, it also recognizes that outstanding questions remain regarding whether and on what terms the 1780-1850 MHz portion of the band can be used for broadband services without impairing the ability of federal agencies to meet their critically important missions. Solutions for the 1780-1850 MHz portion of the band are complex, and after a year of discussions, it is clear that we will not fully resolve the issues for the full band in time to meet the February 2015 licensing deadline.  However, the solutions to these questions lay in precisely the kind of collaboration and technology innovation envisioned by the President in his recent memorandum.  The Industry Roadmap provides the time and means necessary to study and develop lasting and meaningful solutions.  We at T-Mobile believe following the President’s direction is imperative if we are to meet our nation’s growing demand for mobile broadband data.
The importance of this time-phased approach was also driven home in a recent letter signed by the chief technology officers of T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T. In that letter, the companies laid out the relative importance of the 1755-1780 MHz band versus the 1780-1850 MHz band to the U.S. economy and wireless consumers, and the need to move quickly to make the 1755-1780 MHz band available. They also acknowledged the need for a much longer and in-depth look at the challenges of the 1780-1850 MHz band and made clear that there is time to fully study the options for that band, including the need for spectrum and technology advances to ensure that the federal agencies retain comparable capabilities. In fact, the companies recognized that further study of the 1780-1850 MHz portion of the band would ensure exclusive federal access to that spectrum for at least 10 years – pushing the potential date for broadband availability well beyond the timeframe envisioned when this effort began and demonstrating the industry’s commitment to taking the needs of federal agencies seriously.

T-Mobile urges the National Telecommunications & Information Administration and the Federal Communications Commission to work together to implement the Industry Roadmap.  Making the 1755-1780 MHz band available in the near term as part of a broader effort surrounding the larger federal band will advance the President’s agenda of innovation and economic growth through U.S. wireless leadership.