Mobile Broadband Ecosystem

Connect (X): More spectrum means more innovations, partnerships, opportunities for industry

Mobile Broadband Ecosystem

Here is the headline from an article published in January 2011: “The Mobile Data Tsunami Meets the Spectrum Shortage.” This was 2011. 4G was a couple of years old and its deployment was already underway.

Here is a headline from this year, 2021: “U.S. C-Band auction smashes FCC record; concludes at record $80.9B.” 5G is already out and the ecosystem is flourishing with 5G-capable devices.

What changed in the last 10 years? The availability of spectrum in low, mid and high bands fueled innovation. I want to give credit to the FCC and NTIA for their leadership and making sure enough spectrum is being made available for all types of applications – licensed, unlicensed, and for federal and defense use.

Three key elements play a vital role within the mobile broadband ecosystem. They are wireless operators and infrastructure builders, mobile devices and new generations of mobile technology. Spectrum is at the center of this ecosystem. The amount of radio spectrum available for the ecosystem dictates how well these three elements integrate with one another.

New spectrum coming to market enables innovations that lead the world through new 5G use cases – whether it’s a connection requiring gigabits per seconds of speed or a self-driving car requiring sub-millisecond response time.

But along with the potential that new spectrum brings, questions remain.  Does the wireless industry have enough spectrum for commercial use? What’s next on the horizon after the C-Band and 3.45 GHz? Will we see more macro towers and/or small cells because of the C-Band rollout plans? Will the spectrum-sharing techniques be limited to CBRS? How does spectrum impact infrastructure spending? How much additional spectrum will be needed ten years from now when engineers will be defining 6G applications and capabilities?

Join me for a discussion on this subject on Wednesday, Oct. 6, at Connect (X) in Orlando. I will be joined by Dan Hays, principal at PwC; Mark Gibson, director, business development and regulatory policy at CommScope; and Greg Leon, vice president, product management and development at Crown Castle. This session builds upon an earlier discussion on spectrum at Connect (X): All Access.

A global vision was established for 5G in 2016, using low, mid and high-band spectrum, said Dean Brenner, senior vice president, strategy and tech policy at Qualcomm. The C-Band auction, which raised more than $80 billion, is a tremendous validation of the business case for 5G, he noted. Carriers that chose to invest that kind of money clearly have a well-developed business case in order to have made such a financial commitment.

Meanwhile, companies using CBRS spectrum are demonstrating novel use cases, said CommScope’s Gibson. One hospital used CBRS to backhaul spectrum to a point of presence outside the hospital as COVID-19 cases rose. Schools have been using CBRS to get students connected and a port has been using CBRS to control cranes, he noted.

Along with individual tests for finding the best use cases for new spectrum, a more coordinated approach is underway as well. The National Spectrum Consortium is a collaborative research and development organization whose members incubate new technologies to revolutionize the way in which spectrum is accessed, shared and utilized. Through collaboration among industry, academia and government agencies, the National Spectrum Consortium (NSC) supports the implementation of 5G, 5G-based technologies, and spectrum awareness, sharing and use. WIA recently joined the consortium and we are looking forward to working with NSC members to transform communications and bring next-generation technology to our defense sector and communities across the U.S.

Partnering with technology companies, academia, laboratories, and the federal government speeds up innovation, including research and development efforts, said Lizy Paul, NSC Chair. WIA brings broad and deep industry expertise to the table, especially related to the deployment and implementation of 5G and next-generation wireless technologies, Paul noted.

Building on this partnership and observing the recent movements at the spectrum front, I am excited to head to Connect (X) to meet the experts and discuss the future of the mobile broadband ecosystem fueled by innovation and new spectrum.

If you want to learn more about spectrum and how that drives the wireless industry, consider attending the “Spectrum Fundamentals” workshop offered by WIA’s Telecommunications Education Center on Monday, Oct. 4, at Connect (X). Feel free to reach out –