WRC-19 and 5G Spectrum Planning
33 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2019
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: Suggested Citation