5G industry struggles with spectrum sharing
“Sharing is becoming a necessity,” said Google’s Andrew Clegg during a recent regulatory event. Clegg is Google’s spectrum engineering lead with decades of experience in spectrum policy.
“Spectrum sharing must be the new normal,” argued Vernita Harris, director of spectrum policy and programs for the chief information officer of the US Department of Defense (DoD). “It’s an operational need that we can’t get away from.”
Harris’s comments aren’t surprising following a recent DoD spectrum initiative stating that “the traditional model of static frequency allocation is not sufficient.”
But the idea of widespread spectrum sharing is a bitter pill for those in the US commercial wireless industry to swallow.
“I don’t think we should pursue sharing just for sharing’s sake,” argued Leonard Cali, AT&T’s SVP for global public policy. Cali said that “the devil is in the details,” and that spectrum sharing should only be considered when it makes sense.
Cali said the traditional, winner-takes-all approach to exclusive-use spectrum licensing “provides the certainty you need to create an economic business case.”
Cali’s position highlights decades of lobbying by the wireless industry to ensure a steady supply of licensed, exclusive-use spectrum. “Auctioning spectrum provides operators with exclusive use rights, which helps ensure the quality of service we all rely on today,” CTIA, the US trade association that represents the nation’s biggest wireless network operators, wrote on its website. “Auctioned, exclusive-use spectrum forms the core of today’s mobile broadband networks, providing clear protection from interference, enabling investment and high quality, reliable wireless service.”
Importantly, the association noted that exclusive-use spectrum auctions have raised a total of $200 billion in proceeds for the US government.
CBRS vs. C-band
Recent FCC spectrum auctions help highlight the discrepancy between shared spectrum licenses and spectrum reserved exclusively for one licensee. The C-band spectrum auction of exclusive-use licenses recently generated more than $80 billion in total bids. But the similar 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum auction of shared licenses raised only $4.6 billion in bids. And though there are plenty of differences between the two bands, sharing sits front and center considering the CBRS band is one of the first in the world to be dynamically shared between commercial and federal users.
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