WRC-19 and 5G Spectrum Planning

33 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2019

See all articles by Rob Frieden

Rob Frieden

Pennsylvania State University - Dickinson School of Law; Pennsylvania State University - Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Date Written: July 24, 2019


This paper predicts the likely outcome of spectrum planning work on fifth generation wireless (“5G”) services at the 2019 World Administrative Conference (“WRC-19”). It considers whether the United States delegation to the conference embraced old lessons about International Telecommunication Union (“ITU”) spectrum management and emerging ones generated by the new technologies and services 5G will offer, as well as growing national security and industrial policy concerns.

Well before WRC-19, carriers in many nations have begun to offer wireless services using the 5G label. These carriers have acted in advance of finalized spectrum allocation decisions and risk rolling out services on frequencies that may not match a future global consensus. This paper identifies opportunities and benefits in an expedited, unilateral approach, but also notes the potential for significant threats and costs, particularly in light of known, but apparently ignored, or forgotten lessons about global and national spectrum planning.

At WRC-15, the United States largely failed to secure consensus support for expanding global spectrum allocations to include more bandwidth near existing allocations in the Ultra High Frequency band and at extremely high, single and double digit GigaHertz frequencies. This paper considers whether changes in WRC-19 preparations by the United States delegation and in the attitudes of delegations from other nations will support expedited consideration of 5G frequency allocations throughout the usable radio spectrum.

The paper concludes that determining whether the United States achieved success depends in large part on one’s understanding of the pace, nature, procedures and goals of the ITU spectrum planning process. Observers, including FCC commissioners of both political parties, have complained about flaws in the ITU administrative process that contributed to the absence of efforts to expedite rollout of 5G services and other national objectives. Proponents of the process support the ITU as methodical, thorough, consensus driven and conflict avoiding. WRC-19 will likely generate the same inconsistent evaluations.

Keywords: World Radio Conference 2019, International Telecommunication Union, spectrum planning, spectrum management, 5G wireless

JEL Classification: F55, L51, K23, L86, L88, L96, O33, Q28

Suggested Citation

Frieden, Rob, WRC-19 and 5G Spectrum Planning (July 24, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3426175 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3426175

Rob Frieden (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University - Dickinson School of Law

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/r/m/rmf5/

Pennsylvania State University - Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications ( email )

University Park, PA 16802
United States
814-863-7996 (Phone)
814-863-8161 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/r/m/rmf5/

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