CTIA 5G Summit: Driving Competitiveness, Spectrum Auction Authority, and Closing the Digital Divide

CTIA 5G Summit

The CTIA 5G Summit 2024, held in Washington, D.C., brought together key industry leaders to discuss U.S. competitiveness, the need for spectrum auction authority, and strategies for closing the digital divide. With a focus on the future of wireless networks, the summit highlighted the urgent need for more spectrum and infrastructure to meet increasing mobile data demands.

U.S. Competitiveness and Innovation

Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for communications and information with the NTIA, emphasized the high-stakes nature of current technology development. “From artificial intelligence to semiconductor manufacturing, leading in innovation means leading in economic growth and national security,” Davidson stated. The Biden administration’s efforts in laying out a spectrum pipeline and implementing the National Spectrum Strategy were outlined as critical steps to support domestic chip and Open RAN development.

The Need for Spectrum Auction Authority

A major theme at the summit was the necessity of restoring the FCC’s spectrum auction authority. Laurent Therivel, President and CEO of UScellular, stressed that more access to licensed, full-power spectrum is essential for supporting the massive increases in data demand. He pointed out that the U.S. is lagging behind China in both the number of base stations deployed and access to midband spectrum, with Chinese users having access to significantly more wireless capacity.

Addressing the Digital Divide

Therivel outlined three key pillars to address the spectrum and infrastructure challenges: restoring FCC auction authority, aligning federal funding for innovation, and coordinating infrastructure funding. He noted that while there are various federal and state programs for infrastructure funding, their lack of coordination makes it difficult for private companies to invest capital effectively to close the digital divide.

The Importance of Licensed Spectrum

CTIA President and CEO Meredith Atwell Baker reiterated the importance of full-power, exclusive-use, licensed spectrum for efficiently deploying networks that can handle increasing mobile data demands. Slayton Stewart, CEO of Carolina West Wireless and CTIA Chairman, explained that reduced power, shared spectrum requires more fiber and towers, which increases the need for Universal Service Fund support to cover rural areas.

Bipartisan Support for Spectrum Issues

The summit saw bipartisan representation with Representatives Bob Latta (R-OH-5) and Doris Matsui (D-CA-07) advocating for restoring FCC auction authority and addressing spectrum issues collaboratively. Davidson reiterated the need for Congress’s help in restoring spectrum auction authority to sustain network lifeblood and expand access to vital inputs for the industry’s success.

Source: CTIA 5G Summit: Competitiveness, Auction Authority and Closing the Digital Divide

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