The Evolving 5G Case Study in Spectrum Management and Industrial Policy
28 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2019
Date Written: March 2019
Even before national governments reach consensus on frequencies for the fifth generation (“5G”) of wireless radio, carriers and equipment manufacturers in the United States tout benefits and scramble to accelerate ready for service dates. Remarkably, most nations meeting a forum organized by the International Telecommunication Union (“ITU”) did not embrace the need to expedite 5G spectrum planning and management. At the 2015 World Radio Conference (“WRC-15”), the United States partially failed to secure consensus support for expanding global spectrum allocations to include more bandwidth near existing allocations in the Ultra High Frequency (“UHF”) band and at extremely high frequencies in both single and double digit GigaHertz.
This paper will identify the numerous factors that contributed to the refusal of most nations, including customary allies, to endorse some United States 5G spectrum allocations proposals. Reasons for the lack of shared concerns for timely action include unreasonable expectations about the speed with which the ITU can reach consensus; the lack of full consensus even within the U.S. delegation to WRC 15; inaction by most nations in starting the process for reallocating UHF broadcast television spectrum for terrestrial wireless; the FCC’s incentive auctions that shared revenues with broadcasters; and the absence of an immediate and acute shortage of wireless spectrum in many of the 193 countries participating in the ITU.
The paper also will consider whether industrial policies and concerns about cybersecurity also affected strategies and articulated positions at the ITU forum, as well as the likelihood for reaching consensus. More broadly, the paper will assess whether the ITU has become increasingly less able to forge compromises and consensus, particularly when nations consider whether and how to promote national carriers and equipment manufacturers – so-called national heroes — and the duty to safeguard citizens and government agencies from espionage.
The paper concludes with recommendations on how governments and the ITU can achieve better and more timely outcomes in the consensus building process.
Keywords: 5G Wireless, Spectrum Planning, Spectrum Management, International Telecommunication Union, 2015 World Administrative Radio Conference
JEL Classification: F42, F51, F52, F53, F55, K23, K24, L86, L96
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation