Trump Memo Requires Development of National Spectrum Strategy

President Trump signed a memorandum today directed the executive branch to develop a national spectrum strategy. Among other things, the memo stresses the importance of efficient government spectrum use, spectrum sharing, and leading the world in 5G deployment.

David J. Redl, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, first mentioned the administration’s plan to develop the national spectrum strategy at an April meeting of the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee (CSMAC) (TR Daily, April 25), but administration officials have refused to discuss the strategy planning in depth since then.

“While winning the race to 5G will require significant private sector investment, the federal government can and should make policy decisions that promote innovation and capital expenditure,” Michael Kratsios, deputy U.S. chief technology officer and deputy assistant to the president for technology policy, told reporters during a call this morning to outline the spectrum memo. “A spectrum strategy will help create a road map for industry to better guide their business decisions. Additionally, it will provide clarity to federal agencies who rely on spectrum to carry out their mission.”

Another official on the call also stressed the private-sector nature of the 5G effort, in response to a question about a proposal that was floated by a senior National Security Council official to create a government-built 5G network (TR Daily, Jan. 29).

“We very much see this as a private sector-driven 5G roll out and encourage others to see it as that also,” said the official, who also noted comments by National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow at a recent White House 5G Summit (TR Daily, Sept. 28). “This is the American way.”

Mr. Kudlow stressed the importance of relying on “the free enterprise, free market economy” to grow the economy.

“It is the policy of the United States to use radiofrequency spectrum (spectrum) as efficiently and effectively as possible to help meet our economic, national security, science, safety, and other Federal mission goals now and in the future.  To best achieve this policy, the Nation requires a balanced, forward-looking, flexible, and sustainable approach to spectrum management,” the memo released today says.

“As the National Security Strategy of 2017 made clear, access to spectrum is a critical component of the technological capabilities that enable economic activity and protect national security.  Wireless communications and associated data applications establish a foundation for high wage jobs and national prosperity.  While American industry continues to extract greater and greater value from spectrum, each technological leap also increases demands on its usage.  Those demands have never been greater than today, with the advent of autonomous vehicles and precision agriculture, the expansion of commercial space operations, and the burgeoning Internet of Things signaling a nearly insatiable demand for spectrum access,” the memo adds.  Moreover, it is imperative that America be first in fifth-generation (5G) wireless technologies – wireless technologies capable of meeting the high-capacity, low-latency, and high-speed requirements that can unleash innovation broadly across diverse sectors of the economy and the public sector.  Flexible, predictable spectrum access by the United States Government will help ensure that Federal users can meet current and future mission requirements for a broad range of both communications- and non-communications-based systems.”

“Federal agencies must thoughtfully consider whether and how their spectrum-dependent mission needs might be met more efficiently and effectively, including through new technology and ingenuity,” according to the memo. “The United States Government shall continue to look for additional opportunities to share spectrum among Federal and non-Federal entities.  The United States Government shall also continue to encourage investment and adoption by Federal agencies of commercial, dual-use, or other advanced technologies that meet mission requirements, including 5G technologies.  In doing so, we will take appropriate measures to sustain the radiofrequency environment in which critical United States infrastructure and space systems operate.”

Within 180 days, executive departments and agencies must report to the Commerce Department, working through NTIA, “on their anticipated future spectrum requirements for a time period and in a format specified by the Secretary.  Additionally, agencies shall initiate a review of their current frequency assignments and quantification of their spectrum usage in accordance with guidance to be provided by the Secretary.”

The Office of Science and Technology Policy has 180 days to submit reports “on emerging technologies and their expected impact on non-Federal spectrum demand” and “on recommendations for research and development priorities that advance spectrum access and efficiency.”

Also within 180 days, and then annually after that, NTIA, in coordination with the Office of Management and Budget, OSTP, and the FCC, must submit a report “on the status of existing efforts and planned near- to mid-term spectrum repurposing initiatives.”

NTIA, in consultation with OMB, OSTP, and the FCC, has 270 days to submit “a long-term National Spectrum Strategy that includes legislative, regulatory, or other policy recommendations to: (a)  increase spectrum access for all users, including on a shared basis, through transparency of spectrum use and improved cooperation and collaboration between Federal and non-Federal spectrum stakeholders; (b)  create flexible models for spectrum management, including standards, incentives, and enforcement mechanisms that promote efficient and effective spectrum use, including flexible-use spectrum licenses, while accounting for critical safety and security concerns; (c)  use ongoing research, development, testing, and evaluation to develop advanced technologies, innovative spectrum-utilization methods, and spectrum-sharing tools and techniques that increase spectrum access, efficiency, and effectiveness; (d)  build a secure, automated capability to facilitate assessments of spectrum use and expedite coordination of shared access among Federal and non-Federal spectrum stakeholders; and (e)  improve the global competitiveness of United States terrestrial and space-related industries and augment the mission capabilities of Federal entities through spectrum policies, domestic regulations, and leadership in international forums.”

The memo directs the establishment of a Spectrum Strategy Task Force to coordinate implementation of the memo. It will be co-chaired by OSTP and the National Economic Council.  Other task force members will include representatives from OMB, OSTP, the National Security Council, the National Space Council, and the Council of Economic Advisers.  The task force is directed to consult with the FCC.

The memo also revokes spectrum memoranda released by the Obama administration in 2010 and 2013.

The 2010 memo called for freeing up 500 megahertz of spectrum for commercial wireless broadband services by 2020 (TR Daily, June 28, 2010), and the 2013 memo was designed to facilitate greater spectrum sharing, efficiency, and transparency by federal agencies (TR Daily, June 14, 2013).

An administration official told reporters on today’s call that while the Obama memos “served important purposes at the time, we’re taking a forward look at technology that is coming,” including 5G networks. But the official said the Trump administration will continue to focus on the need to share spectrum, as the Obama administration did.

“There’s different spectrum needs for this generation of mobile technology. It’s all bands all the time,” another administration official said. “And because it’s a different technology, it has different needs.”

In a blog posting today, Mr. Redl discussed the benefits of a national spectrum strategy.

“With smart planning and whole of government collaboration as bedrock principles, the strategy will lay the groundwork for future development, moving the U.S. forward in advanced wireless communications, space commerce, and emerging technologies we are only beginning to imagine,” he said. “The strategy will be informed by examinations of spectrum use, and will help policymakers meet our needs both now and in the future.  It will also help align research, development, testing and evaluation efforts.”

Spectrum has drawn considerable attention from presidential administrations over the past 15 years.

In 2003, the George W. Bush administration launched a major interagency initiative to look at the future of spectrum management in the U.S. (TR Daily, June 5, 2003). It released two spectrum memos as part of that.

One of the goals it accomplished was completing a federal strategic spectrum plan. It also worked on a national strategic spectrum plan, work that was to be done in collaboration with the FCC, but the plan was never completed.

The announcement of today’s Trump memo drew praise from FCC Commissioners, members of Congress, industry entities, and public interest advocates.

“We support the President’s spectrum memorandum and applaud his strong commitment to American leadership in 5G.  The FCC will continue to work aggressively to push more spectrum into the commercial marketplace, including through our 28 GHz spectrum auction which will commence in November,” an FCC spokesperson said.

“The Presidential Memorandum appears to provide valuable direction and leadership to Executive Branch agencies on critical spectrum issues, including the vital need to be in a premier global position on 5G wireless services,” said Republican Commissioner Mike O’Rielly. “From an FCC perspective, the agency spectrum inventory review should be of particular interest since it’s likely to result in freeing additional spectrum for commercial services.”

“Winning the race to 5G is about our economic leadership for the next decade.  The White House’s smart spectrum strategy is great news and another strong step towards winning this race for the benefit of all Americans,” said Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr.

“We are ripping up what came before and starting with a new wireless policy sometime late next year.  But the world isn’t going to wait for us,” said Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “Other nations are moving ahead with strategies they are implementing now while we’re headed to study hall — and in the interim we’re slapping big tariffs on the most essential elements of 5G networks.  If you stand back and survey what is happening, you see that we’re not expediting our 5G wireless leadership, we’re making choices that slow us down.”

“The advent of 5G wireless technologies means higher speeds and greater connectivity and convenience for all Americans, but will only be possible with the effective and efficient management of spectrum. We commend the White House for taking this critical step to develop a National Spectrum Strategy, which will in turn help secure U.S. leadership in 5G and unleash innovations of the future. The world is on the cusp of the 5G revolution, and we stand ready to ensure America leads the way in innovation and investment,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R., Ore.) and communications and technology subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.).

“We commend the administration for recognizing the importance of establishing a national spectrum strategy. With the right approach based on licensed wireless spectrum, America’s wireless carriers will invest hundreds of billions of dollars and create millions of jobs to deploy next-generation networks and win the global 5G race,” said CTIA President and Chief Executive Officer Meredith Attwell Baker.

“Spectrum policy plays an important role in the U.S. economy, and I am pleased the Administration will create a National Spectrum Strategy,” said Steve Berry, president and CEO of the Competitive Carriers Association. “CCA agrees that effective and efficient use of spectrum is essential to help meet the ever-growing consumer demand for data, secure the United States as a global technology leader, and help achieve the important goal of bridging the digital divide between rural and urban areas.”

“The Trump Administration demonstrated its vision once again today to maintain America’s leadership in wireless innovation. The memorandum signed today by the President to make more spectrum available for 5G deployment will spur greater economic growth and jobs not just in the wireless industry, but nearly every sector of the economy. I applaud the Administration on today’s action,” said Jonathan Adelstein, president and CEO of the Wireless Infrastructure Association.

Cinnamon Rogers, senior vice president-government affairs for the Telecommunications Industry Association, said, “TIA strongly supports today’s action by the President to direct the creation of a National Spectrum Strategy.  Even as the first 5G deployments and IoT applications are beginning to transform today’s networks, new technologies are being developed that could fundamentally transform how spectrum will be used in the future.  Coordinated, long-term planning is essential to bring together stakeholders from industry and the federal government, and today’s action sets that process in motion.  We’re particularly pleased that the new National Spectrum Strategy will look at the benefits and impacts of new spectrum sharing technologies, while also exploring what the federal government’s spectrum research and development priorities should be.  We look forward to working with the Administration as today’s Memorandum is implemented in the months ahead.”

“Wi-Fi is the lifeblood of our economy, keeping us connected to each other, our doctors, teachers, employers and more every day. That’s why we appreciate the White House’s commitment to a comprehensive, long-term spectrum strategy which balances the evolving needs of wireless users,” said WifiForward.

“Ligado applauds the administration’s commitment to making America 5G First and to maintaining our global competitiveness and national security. We look forward to securing regulatory approval to unlock 40 MHz of mid-band spectrum immediately, create jobs, inject hundreds of millions of dollars of investment into our country’s digital infrastructure, and help build America’s 5G future,” said Ashley Durmer, SVP-government relations and public affairs at Ligado Networks LLC.

“The President’s Memorandum is a pragmatic, common sense approach to developing a sustainable spectrum policy to guarantee our wireless future that maintains American leadership while continuing to meet our public safety and national security needs,” said Public Knowledge SVP Harold Feld. “We particularly applaud the president for embracing the need for a balanced approach that facilitates new technologies for sharing spectrum between federal and non-federal users. We look forward to working with the newly established Spectrum Task Force to develop a National Spectrum Policy that promotes competition and ensures the benefits of the public airwaves for all Americans.”- Paul Kirby,

Courtesy TRDaily