Trump unveils 5G spectrum memorandum

Annual reports on spectrum plans, a spectrum strategy task force, a long-term National Spectrum Strategy, and technology R&D efforts have been commanded under a new US presidential memorandum.

United States President Donald Trump has announced a memorandum on spectrum usage, citing the advent and importance of 5G networks as well as the economic, national security, safety, and science goals of the nation.

The memorandum, titled Developing a Sustainable Spectrum Strategy for America's Future, also points to increasing uses of spectrum including autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things (IoT), commercial space operations, and "precision agriculture".

"It is imperative that America be first in fifth-generation (5G) wireless technologies," the memorandum said.

"Flexible, predictable spectrum access by the United States government will help ensure that federal users can meet current and future mission requirements for a broad range of both communications- and non-communications-based systems."

US Deputy CTO Michael Kratsios said the strategy is aimed at achieving three goals: Ensuring American leadership in 5G; fuelling job growth and economic growth, as well as "quality of life"; and protecting the nation.

"Deploying 5G is only possible if we continue to make additional spectrum available and use it more efficiently," Kratsios said.

"President Trump's memorandum orders federal agencies to review their existing spectrum usage, forecast future demands, and prepare a plan for research and development that will enable better use of spectrum in the future."

While the memorandum said US agencies must continue having access to spectrum, he said they must "thoughtfully consider whether and how their spectrum-dependent mission needs might be met more efficiently and effectively, including through new technology and ingenuity".

"America's national security depends on technological excellence, and the United States government must continue to have access to the spectrum resources needed to serve the national interest, from protecting the homeland and managing the national airspace, to forecasting severe weather and exploring the frontiers of space," the memorandum said.

"The United States government shall also continue to encourage investment and adoption by federal agencies of commercial, dual-use, or other advanced technologies that meet mission requirements, including 5G technologies. In doing so, we will take appropriate measures to sustain the radio-frequency environment in which critical United States infrastructure and space systems operate."

Under Section 4 of the memorandum, the Secretary of Commerce is required within 270 days to submit a long-term National Spectrum Strategy to increase spectrum access, including through spectrum sharing and "improved cooperation and collaboration".

"We're on the verge of new technological revolutions that could improve virtually every aspect of our lives, create vast new wealth for American workers and families, and open up bold, new frontiers in science, medicine, and communication," Trump said on Thursday.

The National Spectrum Strategy should also cover spectrum management models including flexible licensing; and the continued research and development (R&D) across new technologies, methods of utilising spectrum, and spectrum sharing tools.

The secretary is to work with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and in consultation with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on the strategy, which should also see them:

"Build a secure, automated capability to facilitate assessments of spectrum use and expedite coordination of shared access among federal and non-federal spectrum stakeholders; and improve the global competitiveness of United States terrestrial and space-related industries and augment the mission capabilities of federal entities through spectrum policies, domestic regulations, and leadership in international forums."

Within 180 days, executive departments and agencies must also report to the secretary on their predicted spectrum requirements in future and review their current spectrum assignments and usage; and the Director of the OSTP must report to the president on the expected spectrum demands of new technologies, as well as recommendations on R&D priorities across spectrum access and efficiency.

Also within 180 days, and then annually, the secretary, NTIA, OMB, OSTP, and FCC must report to the president via the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the Director of the National Economic Council on "the status of existing efforts and planned near- to mid-term spectrum repurposing initiatives".

The memorandum also sets up a Spectrum Strategy Task Force, to be co-chaired by the US government CTO and Director of the National Economic Council and contain representatives from the OMB, OSTP, National Security Council, National Space Council, and Council of Economic Advisers.

"The Spectrum Strategy Task Force shall work with the secretary and the NTIA in coordinating implementation of this memorandum. In carrying out its coordination functions, the Spectrum Strategy Task Force shall consult with the FCC," the memorandum adds.

The unveiling of the spectrum strategy and taskforce follows calls from wireless carriers for greater access to 5G spectrum, with 5G Americas president Chris Pearson last month saying the lack of spectrum availability -- particularly in the mid-band, because 3.5GHz is going to be a global 5G band -- is a "big concern" that could see the US fall behind.

"5G is a race that everyone should win," Pearson told ZDNet in September.

"And when everyone wins, it means that the customer wins, whether you're a business customer or a consumer customer. But we're all only going to win if we get spectrum out there and cell site density."

Nokia's North America CTO Mike Murphy agreed that China, Korea, and Japan are all bringing mid-band spectrum to market a lot sooner than the US.

"If you don't have mid-band, like the US, what does that mean? It probably means you're going to have a little bit spotty millimetre-wave just because of the cost and how long it takes to get sites," Murphy told ZDNet.

"You'll have this low-band, which is mostly refarming LTE, which gives you the icon but maybe not the true meaning of a 5G service, so you may not get as good a nationwide experience as the countries that auction off mid-band from day one."

Earlier this year, leaked documents from the Trump Administration had shown it was considering setting standards for a secure nationwide 5G network to be used by both civilians and military weapons, in addition to signing up allies to help deploy 5G to developing nations in order to "inoculate" them against China.

The US has since barred Huawei and China Mobile from taking part in telecommunications infrastructure due to national security concerns.

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