CTIA, CAA, Public Knowledge and more get behind AIRWAVES Act

CTIA and more than a dozen other entities are urging lawmakers to pass the Advancing Innovation and Reinvigorating Widespread Access to Viable Electromagnetic Spectrum (AIRWAVES) Act, which would require the FCC to identify more spectrum for commercial wireless use.

CTIA, the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), NATE, Public Knowledge and others sent a letter on Tuesday to lawmakers in hopes of providing some fresh momentum toward getting AIRWAVES passed. The American Library Association, National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators and National Black Chamber of Commerce are also among the signatories.

An important component of the act is a provision for funding the deployment of wireless broadband services in unserved and underserved areas of the country through a set-aside of spectrum auction proceeds, according to Kelly Cole, SVP of government affairs at CTIA. The way it’s drafted, the act would take 10% of auction proceeds and dedicate it to rural wireless.

If this bill, for example, had been in place in the previous two auctions—the incentive auction and the AWS-3 auction—that would have resulted in a rural broadband investment of more than $6 billion, which is more than the FCC’s Mobility Fund will make available over the course of a decade, she said in an interview.

AIRWAVES also includes provisions for low, mid- and high-band spectrum, all of which are vital for deploying 5G. In rural areas, the low-band spectrum is particularly useful because it allows for covering longer distances, she noted.

The bill directs regulators to find spectrum between 1300 and 1350 MHz and between 1780 and 1830 MHz to fulfill the low-band requirement. It also calls for identifying up to 500 megahertz of additional spectrum in the frequencies between 3700 and 4200 MHz for commercial wireless and making way for unlicensed usage between 5925 and 7125 MHz.

The AIRWAVES Act has been in the works for about a year now. Work is under way to sign up as many cosponsors as possible to build support for it. Then, it will need to undergo hearings before the markup process.

RELATED: CTIA: Study shows China with narrow lead over U.S. in race to 5G

CTIA has been emphasizing the need to ensure the U.S. wins the race to 5G. A report by Analysys Mason shows the U.S. is currently behind China and South Korea in the race for 5G deployment as these countries aggressively making spectrum available for 5G.

Others question the need for “winning” a race to 5G when the technology is based on industry standards that are used by operators all over the world, and they say other countries like China own the telecom operators, so it’s a different situation.