FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mike O’Rielly today reiterated their support for the FCC’s pursuit of a rulemaking to free up at least some of the 5.9 gigahertz band for unlicensed use, and they welcomed a study that estimated that allowing Wi-Fi operations in the band could add more than $100 billion annually to the U.S. gross domestic product.
During a joint appearance this afternoon at the Wi-Fi Summit, which was organized by WifiForward, Ms. Rosenworcel noted that she and Mr. O’Rielly both support taking a “fresh look” at the 5.9 GHz band, which is allocated to dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) technology, “and I think we need to do that sooner rather than later.”
“The message is resonating,” Mr. O’Rielly added.
Ms. Rosenworcel also called “extraordinary” the conclusion of a study released by the RAND Corp. today that estimated that opening the band for Wi-Fi could add from $59.8 billion to $105.8 billion to the annual U.S. GDP. The study also predicted that Wi-Fi use of the spectrum could also provide economic gains in consumer surplus and producer surplus of $82.2 billion to $189.9 billion. The study didn’t estimate the potential economic impact of continuing to use the 5.9 GHz band for DSRC operations.
Mr. O’Rielly said the study was “incredibly insightful” in providing information on the benefits to the public of Wi-Fi use of the 5.9 GHz band.
The RAND study, whose lead author was Diana Carew, an assistant policy researcher, was sponsored by the Comcast Innovation Fund. The cable industry is lobbying the FCC to open the spectrum to Wi-Fi use.
“RAND’s analysis demonstrates that the FCC could generate billions of dollars of value for the U.S. economy each year by opening the 5.9 GHz band to Wi-Fi. It also confirms that unlicensed spectrum is the incubator of wireless innovation, and at the center of the emerging Internet of things,” said Ellen Satterwhite, spokesperson for WifiForward, “This research is a leap forward in how we think about unlicensed and shared spectrum allocations and should be helpful to making balanced spectrum policymaking in the United States.”
But the study drew criticism from ITS America, an advocate of DSRC technology.
“The Rand report, funded by the Comcast Innovation Fund, notes its estimates are intended to provide ‘insight’ for dealing with unlicensed spectrum allocation, but how do you weigh potential economic gains against the potential to save tens of thousands of lives?” asked ITS America President and Chief Executive Officer Shailen Bhatt.
At today’s event, the Commissioners also said they hope the FCC moves forward to free up 6 GHz band spectrum for unlicensed use.
The FCC unanimously adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking last month proposing to make available as much as 1,200 MHz of spectrum in the 5.925-7.125 GHz band (TR Daily, Oct. 23).
Mr. O’Rielly noted that a key issue is handling interference to incumbents. “If it does develop, we want to make sure that it’s addressed, but we don’t want to go too far in that range. So it’s trying to balance those things,” he said. He said he hopes the FCC can adopt an order in the proceeding by the end of 2019.
Ms. Rosenworcel said the FCC should explore opening the 6 GHz band up for unlicensed use beyond low-power and indoor usage.
Regarding the 3.5 GHz band, Mr. O’Rielly said there is more work to be done on spectrum access system (SAS) and environmental sensing capability (ESC) databases, saying he hopes that can occur in the first quarter of 2019.
The Commissioners disagreed on a memorandum signed by President Trump last month directing the executive branch to develop a national spectrum strategy (TR Daily, Oct. 25).
Mr. O’Rielly said it was helpful, but Ms. Rosenworcel complained that it gave agencies 270 days to produce the strategy and did not mention unlicensed spectrum. But Mr. O’Rielly said, “The FCC is not waiting for the administration to move on 5G.”
During an earlier session, Reps. Bob Latta (R., Ohio) and Jerry McNerney (D., Calif.), the co-chairs of the newly established Congressional Wi-Fi Caucus (TR Daily, Oct. 4), stressed the importance of Wi-Fi to sectors such as manufacturing, health care, and agriculture and the need to ensure there is adequate spectrum for unlicensed spectrum use and innovation.
Rep. McNerney expressed support for considering repurposing the 5.9 GHz band, saying, “Let’s take a look and see if that’s something we can open up without endangering auto safety in the future.”
The congressman also said there must be “basic, minimum standards” for IoT (Internet of things) devices to ensure that they are secure.
Yesterday, the House approved by voice vote the State of Modern Application, Research, and Trends of IoT Act (SMART IoT Act) (HR 6032) (TR Daily, Nov. 29). The bill, which was introduced by Reps. Latta, chairman of the House digital commerce and consumer protection subcommittee, and subcommittee member Peter Welch (D., Vt.), would direct the Commerce Department to produce a study on the state of the IoT industry in the U.S. and the activities of federal agencies in this area.
Reps. Latta and McNerney said today that spectrum and other tech issues bridge the partisan divide in Washington. “We’re on different sides of the aisle, but these are issues that affect all of us,” Rep. Latta said.
Also during today’s event, Raul Katz, president of Telecom Advisory Services LLC, discussed a study that was released last spring that projects that the economic value of unlicensed spectrum in the U.S. will reach $834.48 billion by 2020 (TR Daily, May 17). The study said that the value of unlicensed spectrum to the U.S. economy has grown 129% since 2013 and totaled $525.19 billion in 2017.
A study released last month that Mr. Katz co-authored focuses on the economic impact of unlicensed spectrum in other countries. For example, it projects that the economic value of unlicensed spectrum in five advanced economies (Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, South Korea, and France) will increase from $432 billion this year to $652 billion in 2023. —Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org