National regulators have recognized the need to make more radiofrequency spectrum available for wireless broadband. To achieve those objectives, regulators are being forced to consider spectrum sharing in lieu of exclusive licensing. Regulators are also looking at spectrum at higher frequencies – millimeter-wave bands – that only a few years ago were not considered attractive options to support mobile broadband. While not alone, the United States has been a leader in both respects. For example, the Federal Communications Commission has adopted and in the past year refined a novel spectrum sharing regulatory framework in the 3.5 GHz band. The United States is also considering additional sharing frameworks in several bands, such as the 700 MHz public safety band and the 4.9 GHz public safety band. At the same time, ostensibly moving ahead of the primary international processes, the FCC in July 2016 adopted an order making several millimeter-wave (or so-called “5G”) bands available for flexible mobile use and identifying an additional eighteen gigahertz of higher frequency bands (between 31 and 86 GHz) for similar consideration. These proposals have generated intense participation among the mobile, satellite, fixed, and other wireless industries.
This industry briefing will examine the FCC’s actions and consider whether they are enjoying early success and what challenges remain. Can one or more of the FCC’s sharing regimes serve as models for sharing in other bands or for regulators in other countries seeking to maximize the use of spectrum in the face of rising demand? To what extent are the factors that drove the United States to adopt these sharing frameworks and spectrum allocations present in other countries? Are there conditions or circumstances in other countries that makes them, for the present at least, able to cope with less reliance on spectrum sharing?