COMMISSIONER JESSICA ROSENWORCEL
White Spaces and Spectrum Sharing for Wireless Broadband Presentation
(July 19, 2012)
The wireless revolution is here to stay. The number of devices using our airwaves
is growing at breathtaking speed. This is more than the proliferation of wireless phones
and tablet computers. Consider that within the next decade machine to machine devices
communicating wirelessly may number as high as 50 billion. But as with any revolution,
the old ways of management will have to give way to the realities of our new world.
In the simplest terms, the demand for spectrum is going up. The supply of
unencumbered spectrum is going down. This is the pressure point. We must innovate.
Innovation, as the presentation here today reminds us, will take many forms.
Good spectrum policy involves licensed and unlicensed services. The former provides
reliability and interference protection; the latter provides low barriers to entry and low-
cost opportunities for creative uses. But what we have done before will not be sufficient
in the years to come. The solution, as others have noted, lies in three things—
technology, topology, and spectrum.
First, technology. New technologies and opportunities for sharing are under
development. Geographic and temporal sharing are established notions. But more
dynamic technologies need investment from the public and private sector to speed their
development on a broader scale. I believe we can lead here, just as we have led the world
in developing white spaces technology.
Second, topology, or the structure of networks. It is here that small cells hold
large promise. They can make more efficient use of existing frequencies. They can help
cover geographies that are hard to reach with macro service. But standardization is still
underway, backhaul is key, and the agency should be looking for ways to facilitate their
Third, spectrum. We all know that the President has called for 500 megahertz of
spectrum to be cleared for commercial use within ten years. We are making progress at
the Commission, including in our review of how to provide for more flexible use of the
2 GHz band currently assigned to Mobile Satellite Service. Plus, we have a series of
auctions, including incentive auctions, on the near-term horizon. To bring certainty to the
marketplace, I believe we should put these auctions on a clear timeline. But it will take
more than these efforts to meet this goal. As others have noted, the federal government
uses large swaths of choice spectrum. While past efforts to reclaim spectrum from
federal users have involved the stick, I think going forward we should explore the carrot.
Today, the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act provides funding to federal users for
relocation when their airwaves are reallocated for commercial use. It also now provides
upfront funding for planning. What is missing is a series of incentives. What if we were
to financially reward federal authorities for efficient use of their spectrum resource?
What if they were able to reclaim a portion of the revenue from the subsequent re-auction
of their airwaves? Would they make smarter choices about their missions and the
resources they need to accomplish them? It’s an idea worth exploring. The idea of
synthetic currency proposed by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and
Technology is also worth exploration.
Finally, it is essential to understand why it is so important that we get our new
spectrum policies right. Putting our wireless resources to work will grow the economy.
By some estimates, every dollar invested in the wireless sector will add $10 to our gross
domestic product. This is investment that can create jobs, raise wages, and change the
way we live. When it comes to the state of wireless, the issues are challenging, but if we
get our policies right, the rewards are real.