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Working Together on Our Spectrum Future

The Consumer Electronic Association (CEA) released a study this week on the economic impact of unlicensed spectrum. It helps demonstrate how unlicensed spectrum is a critical contributor to our economy and our daily lives, no matter how the math works out.

In my new role here at CTIA, I was surprised when people asked how we would respond. Washington loves a good fight, a good debate. There isn’t one here.

We applaud CEA for continuing to raise awareness of the centrality of spectrum to our daily lives. Just as we all rely on our smartphones’ 3G and 4G service, we also depend on their Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities. As we move toward an ever more connected life, our reliance on spectrum – licensed and unlicensed – will only grow exponentially. CEA and CTIAPDF have been strong partners in support of a robust licensed spectrum policy for mobile broadband, and I commit that CTIA will continue working with CEA and other stakeholders to modernize our nation’s spectrum policy for both licensed and unlicensed spectrum uses.

The suggestion that either licensed or unlicensed spectrum uniquely holds the promise of future entrepreneurship and innovation is another type of false choice our city loves. Both are needed by our country to continue the amazing investment and innovation that makes our wireless ecosystem the envy of the world. From carriers and tower companies to device and chipset manufacturers, operating system developers and app creators, we applaud the remarkable innovative spirit up and down our ecosystem

CEA’s report, and the release of CTIA’s Annual Survey on Tuesday, underscore the urgency for all of us to engage further on spectrum issues with a more strategic and long-term view. I hope you take a look at our survey results, which confirms what Ericsson and Cisco recently reported – mobile broadband continues to grow at astounding rates. Total U.S. mobile traffic increased 120% last year alone, and is now more than eight times the volume of data reported just four years ago in 2010. And there is no end in sight, as Ericsson projects that mobile traffic in North America will grow seven times over between 2013 and 2019. CTIA member companies responded, with more than $33 billion in capital investment in 2013, up 10% from the year before and a new record for one year.

A fresh approach to spectrum policy must include opportunities for licensed and unlicensed uses, as well as for government operations. All spectrum users need the opportunity to innovate and continue to serve consumers’ needs and critical missions. As we move forward working together, CTIA will strive to continue to identify the spectrum bands appropriate for each usage case.

We supported the FCC’s 5 GHz action, and are excited for more innovation in light of that new unlicensed opportunity. At the same time, clearing and auctioning exclusive-use licensed spectrum below 3 GHz fueled record breaking network investment – over $134 billion in just the last five years – and extraordinary consumer benefits. It is why we lead the world in dynamic innovation and growth in next-generation mobile broadband. And, when we ask companies to spend billions on new licensed spectrum bands, there will always need to be well understood interference protections and certainty to ensure reliable service for the millions of Americans relying on next-generation mobile technology.

Along with its paper, CEA released a great video on what a day without unlicensed spectrum would be like. I happened to watch that video on my smartphone on my carrier’s 4G network. While a day without unlicensed would be challenging, a day without your smartphone and licensed spectrum is nearly impossible! The great news is that with an intelligent spectrum plan moving forward, we will never need to be without either one.

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