Experimentation is the foundation of innovation. For decades, the Commission has fostered wireless experimentation through its Experimental Radio Service, resulting in the development of new technologies that are fundamental to today’s wireless networks, services, and devices. In 2013 the Commission took steps to enhance the ERS by further reducing barriers to access experimentation rights, specifically by creating a new program experimental license. The timing is fortuitous – the program experimental license is coming on line as innovators are embarking on the research that will enable the fifth generation of wireless technologies and services.

By all measures, the experimental radio service has been a huge success.  The Office of Engineering and Technology processes over 2000 requests for experimental licenses annually, to over 600 universities, researchers, OEMs and other innovators. This year alone we have over 35 experimental licenses that have a 5G focus or are in the bands raised in the Spectrum Frontiers proceeding. We have also granted experimental licenses to several entities who are conducting propagation and network tests for the 3.5 GHz band. These experiments will clearly help advance the introduction of these new wireless technologies and services.

To further improve the ERS, the Commission took three major steps in 2013. It created a new medical testing license, available to health care facilities to assess radio frequency-based medical devices. It created a new compliance testing license, which allows recognized labs to conduct radio frequency product compliance testing. And, perhaps most importantly, it created the program experimental license, which allows colleges, research laboratories, health care institutions, and manufacturers that have demonstrated experience in radio frequency technology to conduct ongoing series of research experiments and tests.

The program experimental license offers a new paradigm for the ERS, one that significantly reduces the barriers to experimentation for qualified entities. Under a program experimental license, a licensee is able to post a notification that it is experimenting in a particular band to a web portal. Other parties, specifically entities that hold licenses in bands that the experiment may use or affect (in a controlled manner) then have to proactively object if they have concerns about the interference potential from the experiment. The concept here is simple: allow entities with radio frequency expertise, that are able to manage radio frequency devices in a controlled environment without affecting other users, experiment more freely.

We have been working to stand up the IT system necessary to facilitate the program experimental license for several years, and we are near completion. Within a few weeks, we will release a Public Notice announcing that the program experimental license is open for business. This could have huge benefits in the development of new wireless technologies, including 5G. Under the ERS, all of the bands the Commission adopted and proposed in the Spectrum Frontiers R&O and FNPRM are open for experimentation now. Under the new program experimental license, qualifying entities will have even fewer administrative hurdles to jump through, easing the path toward experimentation, and ultimately, innovation.

I look forward to the new innovations that are sure to come.