Licensed Spectrum’s Impact on National Security and America’s 5G Future


Wireless technology, which runs on spectrum, is an indispensable part of our everyday lives. We see this when we text, join in on a video conference, order a ride on a ride sharing platform, or stream our favorite shows via mobile. But it is not just about efficiency and convenience; it’s critical to national security and the economy. When compared to other countries, the U.S. is facing a significant shortage of licensed mid-band spectrum. Immediate action is needed to ensure America’s continued 5G leadership for both general increased quality of life and the safety of our nation.

How Things Have Changed: Spectrum Then and Now

As the use of wireless technology has increased and evolved, the demand for spectrum has gone up too. Initially, the government was the primary user of spectrum. While the government still uses spectrum to protect and operate the country, there is increasing demand for spectrum in the commercial space, supporting important activities like emergency services, telemedicine, and remote education. Shifting use of the limited amount of spectrum available is difficult, but as outlined in a study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, must be a collaborative effort.

The Importance of U.S. 5G Leadership on National Security

The shortage of mid-band spectrum and the surging demand for 5G technology threatens the U.S.’s 5G leadership. Mid-band spectrum forms the backbone of 5G’s powerful connectivity, making it essential for national security, economic strength, and military superiority. Spectrum scarcity not only hinders the development of new technologies but also risks ceding innovation leadership to global competitors such as China which would bolster their military and strategic advantages. There is a pressing need for spectrum reallocation to solidify America’s technological edge.

Solutions to the U.S. Licensed Spectrum Shortage

There are many steps to solve the licensed spectrum shortage in the United States, but there are two from the study from Center for Strategic and International Studies that stand out:

  1. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) must have the power to hold spectrum auctions again and make more commercial spectrum available. Congress needs to reauthorize the FCC’s ability to auction spectrum. Additionally, the U.S. needs to open more spectrum bands and create a pipeline of future use, easing tension and fostering coexistence between commercial and government use.
  2. We need a roadmap for identifying additional mid-band spectrum. To meet growing demand, we need a pipeline of mid-band spectrum and a way to get there. This includes studying the appropriate bands of spectrum and prioritizing the needs of existing users while encouraging government and commercial users to foster collaboration. We also need a reasonable and appropriate timeline for reallocation.

5G is foundational for the digitization that is the key to future economic and military power.” It’s important we have the licensed spectrum resources needed to support it.