Georgetown McDonough Hosts Inaugural Spectrum Summit To Address Innovations and Challenges in Digital Connectivity
The Center for Business and Public Policy at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business held its inaugural Spectrum Summit, which brought together experts in law, engineering, regulation, policy, and economics to assess United States spectrum policy and the nation’s ability to lead the world in spectrum-based innovations.
During the panel sessions, experts explored how cloud service providers’ demand for private networks might impact United States digital connectivity infrastructure, the successes and failures of different spectrum-sharing regimes, the economic and innovation costs and benefits of designating spectrum as unlicensed, and successful and unsuccessful federal spectrum policies and recommendations for the Biden administration’s National Spectrum Strategy.
“Spectrum is key to national security and public safety,” said Scott Blake Harris, senior spectrum advisor at the Office of the Assistant Secretary in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, during the keynote address “Not to be overly dramatic, but government spectrum is required to track enemy missiles, drones, and aircraft, and is needed to provide real-time information to warfighters and get real-time information in return. Government spectrum is also needed to prepare for life-threatening weather events, to protect police, firefighters, and civilians.”
Harris said the challenge facing regulators today is to determine how more space could be made available for emerging technologies on spectrum without disrupting public safety and national security technologies that rely on currently used spectrum.
“These new, more efficient factories, cars, and homes need to be able to coexist with our existing national security and public safety infrastructure and the infrastructure that is being developed today.”
Harris’ keynote address was followed by a panel discussion on the growing demand for wireless connectivity. The conversation featured Carolyn Brandon, senior industry and innovation fellow at the Center for Business and Public Policy; Chris Nickerson, manager at Analysys Mason; and Brent Skorup, senior research fellow at Mercatus Center. The panelists explored current spectrum allocations in the United States and worldwide; data on current demand projections for high-speed mobile broadband; and how the supply of spectrum could stay ahead of demand. The panelists also examined what might occur should the demand for spectrum exceed supply.
“The Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy distinguishes itself among other academic think tanks by focusing on the most current issues where business and policy collide,” said Brandon. “Our spectrum conference featured the newly appointed special advisor for spectrum at the NTIA who is developing the country’s first National Spectrum Plan, making our convening that much more timely and impactful.”
The next discussion highlighted private networks and their place in the future of spectrum-based connectivity, featuring Jen Fritzsche, managing director of communications services and digital infrastructure at Greenhill & Co.; Alex Besen, founder and CEO of the Besen Group; Jennifer McCarthy, vice president of Legal Advocacy at Federated Wireless, and Sal D’Itri, chairman of the National Spectrum Consortium. The executives discussed how spectrum demand should be met for the successful digitization of industries and debated several business models for private wireless networks and the role of large, commercial 5G networks nationwide.
The last panel discussion of the summit focused on how the pipeline for a 5G spectrum could be capitalized and offered considerations for the Biden administration as it works on its National Spectrum Plan. Speakers included Christopher S. Yoo, professor of law, communication, and computer information science at the University of Pennsylvania Law School; Scott Wallsten, president and senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute and senior fellow at the Center for Business and Public Policy; Kelly Cole, senior vice president of Government Affairs for CTIA; and Kate O’Connor, chief counsel for the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce. The panel explored the issue of increasingly less “easy” spectrum allocation choices and discussed actionable steps for the Biden administration to bolster ongoing experimentation with spectrum technologies while ensuring the United States has the world’s fastest and most robust 5G commercial network.