Thursday, September 22, 2022

Report on Mid-Band Spectrum: U.S. Must Act to Compete Globally

On Tuesday, CTIA issued a Press Release highlighting a new report that compares the amount of licensed mid-band spectrum available for 5G in the United States and other countries. Currently near the bottom of the list of 15 countries studied, America's relative position will not improve significantly over the next five years absent timely action by policymakers to free up more spectrum between 3 and 7 GHz.

Entitled "Comparison of total mobile spectrum in different markets," the report was prepared by Analysys Mason. As it happens, Free State Foundation President Randolph May blogged about a previous Analysys Mason report on spectrum availability in March 2020.

The report finds that, with a current total mid-band licensed spectrum allocation of 270 MHz, the U.S. lags the leading three countries – Japan (1100 MHz), the U.K. (790 MHz), and France (510 MHz) – by an average of 530 MHz.

Factoring in allocations already planned, the landscape in five years is not forecast to look much better: the amount of mid-band spectrum in the U.S. should increase to 450 MHz, but that total will fall short, on average by nearly half (415 MHz), of the expected allocations in Japan (1100 MHz), the U.K. (790 MHz), and South Korea (700 MHz).

The image below helpfully presents this information in graphic form.

As Meredith Attwell Baker, CTIA President and CEO, is quoted in the Press Release, "[t]he FCC made great progress with recent mid-band spectrum auctions, but this study shows there is more work to be done. We need Congress, the Commission and the Administration to develop a meaningful pipeline plan to build upon our recent success."

To be sure, efforts to make more mid-band spectrum available for 5G are ongoing. As Free State Foundation Director of Policy Studies and Senior Fellow Seth Cooper noted in a contemporaneous post to the FSF Blog, the House in July passed the Spectrum Innovation Act of 2022, the intent of which is to make 200 MHz of lower 3 GHz band spectrum available for commercial ("non-Federal") use.

And on September 12, 2022, Senators Mike Lee (R – UT) and Marsha Blackburn (R – TN) introduced related legislation in the Senate with an even more ambitious goal: 350 MHz of spectrum between 3.1 and 3.45 GHz.