Radio spectrum is the fuel that powers the modern wireless economy. Wireless data use continues to explode as access to mobile broadband has now become a ubiquitous part of daily life. Radio access technologies continue to evolve, with LTE and Wi-Fi soon to be joined by 5G networks and ever-increasing IoT applications. Collectively, these changes are placing new demands on traditional spectrum allocation approaches.
To allow the use of spectrum to evolve to meet changing demands and enable new technologies, TIA believes that spectrum policy decisions should be based upon the following principles:
- Predictability: To drive investment by commercial and government users alike, spectrum allocations need to be predictable. Identifying demand and changes in demand, understanding the pace of radio technology development by platform, and long-term planning are all essential parts of a spectrum policy that can provide predictability for all spectrum users.
- Flexibility: For commercial allocations, technology-neutral flexible-use policies that are consistent with baseline technical rules have proven to be the best approach. Flexible approaches allow technological developments to make the most effective and efficient use of bandwidth, permit the introduction of new services, and give spectrum users the ability and incentive to develop and install innovative, low-cost technologies that respond to consumer needs.
- Efficiency: Policies should encourage more efficient use of spectrum where technically and economically feasible. Market-based mechanisms can often be explored to increase the efficiency of spectrum use, particularly in the context of consumer services, although not all uses of spectrum can be evaluated on market-based value alone.
- Priority: In cases where band sharing is technically and economically possible, policies must advance good engineering practice to best support an environment that protects those with superior spectrum rights from harmful interference.
- Harmonization: Globally-harmonized spectrum leads to important technological benefits such as roaming and potentially reduced power consumption or device size. It also produces efficiencies of scale in device design and manufacturing that lowers costs for consumers and industry alike.
Cleared spectrum allocations are usually preferred where possible, even as resource constraints and technological advances are increasingly leading to spectrum sharing being implemented or proposed for certain bands. However, good spectrum policy decisions must always be made on a band-by-band basis, depending on the particular propagation characteristics of a band, existing service allocations, and existing incumbent services within a band. While new spectrum sharing approaches and technologies are increasingly becoming available, the existence of either should not, by itself, justify regulatory action to implement a sharing system. Rather, that should be one of multiple factors for each specific service and band.
In determining whether and how to create a successful sharing environment, the following combination of factors should also be considered:
- an economic model, especially to encourage investment;
- availability of spectrum for nationwide use;
- the needs of existing services in a particular band, especially with regard to avoiding harmful interference;
- limitations in significant markets, and the time, bandwidth, and geographic license boundary limitations under which the limitations exist;
- sufficient value of the spectrum to warrant investment in further innovation;
- adjacency of spectrum to, or complementarity with, existing bands/services; and
- potential for innovation and growth by the incumbent service.