August 3, 2015 - 3:05 pm
By Tom Wheeler | FCC Chairman

Over the past decade, wireless services and technologies have dramatically evolved while shaping our economy and society. We've moved from analog to digital, from voice only services to wireless broadband, from 2G to 4G, and beyond. The Commission has consistently fostered policies promoting wireless deployment and innovation. We have seen an extraordinary growth in demand for wireless services. We've made additional spectrum available, but also pursued a flexible use regulatory strategy that allows providers to use spectrum resources to meet their needs and to develop and deploy innovative technologies without Commission approval (of course, with necessary competitive safeguards).

Technological innovation both supports and stretches the boundaries of flexible use policies, allowing more and more uses and users to coexist. This is true of so-called "5G technologies", enabling higher-spectrum bands for mobility than previously thought possible. These higher-frequency bands are currently allocated for a variety of uses, including fixed, mobile, and satellite. It is because of the success of flexible use policies that helped the United States become a leader in LTE that we intend to build our 5G policies on the bedrock of flexible use. 5G may mean not only better broadband, but also services and applications fundamentally different from those that are possible today, including services not yet even imagined, and potentially entire new industries.

My goal is to foster an environment in which the widest possible variety of new technologies can grow and flourish. The Commission took the first step in the fall of 2014 when it adopted a Notice of Inquiry asking about expanded wireless use of higher-frequency bands. We expect to follow up on the Notice of Inquiry and issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the use of higher-frequency bands for mobile and other uses this year.

The NPRM will focus on developing a flexible regulatory framework that will allow maximum use of higher-frequency bands by a wide variety of providers, whether the service they provide is mobile, fixed, or satellite. I anticipate that we will explore a range of regulatory strategies depending on the specifics of each proposed higher-frequency band, including licensed, unlicensed, and hybrid shared models.

In addition, as an implementation of existing flexible rules, I foresee lower-frequency bands playing a role in 5G. For example, the timing of the incentive auction makes the 600 MHz band a prime candidate for deployment of a wide-area 5G coverage layer. In much the same way that 700 MHz paved the way for America's world-leading deployment of 4G, so could 600 MHz accelerate U.S. deployment of 5G.

To establish an environment to drive innovations and investments in 5G technologies, we will continue to work with relevant stakeholders and coordinate closely with NTIA and other federal agencies. We will consider ways in which new technology enables new opportunities, such as two-way spectrum sharing to increase capability of government and commercial users alike. In addition, we will encourage and support other agencies' efforts to fund research on 5G and will encourage building cybersecurity protections for new 5G networks from the start.

We will also take an active role on 5G issues internationally, monitor standardization processes, and encourage globally harmonized spectrum for 5G to the extent possible.

At the upcoming 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), we will continue to support harmonized international spectrum allocations for mobile broadband and will encourage the adoption of a plan for identifying spectrum for mobile technologies in higher-frequency bands with the aim of reaching decisions regarding spectrum for mobile use at the next WRC, which is expected to be held in 2019. Studying all of the spectrum above 6 GHz would be unfocused and would be resource intensive while identifying too few bands for study risks the possibility that none becomes viable. Accordingly, we need to identify enough bands likely to yield a successful outcome.

The spectrum bands proposed by the United States to be studied for consideration at WRC-19 include 27.5-29.5 GHz, 37-40.5 GHz, 47.2-50.2 GHz, 50.4-52.6 GHz, and 59.3-71 GHz. We will consider these bands, or a subset of the bands, in further detail in an upcoming NPRM, with the goal of maximum use of higher-frequency bands in the United States by a wide variety of providers. We are committed to working with both domestic and international partners on identifying spectrum and on conducting the necessary technical sharing and compatibility studies.

We are in the early stages on the path towards 5G. I encourage stakeholders in the mobile broadband industry, incumbent fixed service providers, satellite providers, and others to take a fresh look at how things are done, to be open to the extraordinary possibilities this next generation technology may present, and to continue to work individually and collectively to help unlock the tremendous benefits of 5G, providing new possibilities and improving the lives of Americans and people around the world.