Mobilizing America: Accelerating Next Generation Wireless Opportunities

September 8, 2015

(Washington, D.C.) Today, Mobile Future released a new report by its Advisory Board member Jim Kohlenberger, the President of JK Strategies and former Chief of Staff in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, titled Mobilizing America: Accelerating Next Generation Wireless Opportunities Everywhere.” The paper examines the power and promise of 5G technology and puts forward a comprehensive strategy to “Mobilize America” in order to ensure continued U.S. global leadership in the next generation wireless revolution.

“In the midst of today’s 4G revolution, it’s not too early to begin charting a path toward a winning future by thinking about 5G wireless innovation,” writes Kohlenberger. “What we want from it, what it can achieve, how it can help solve broader policy challenges, the barriers we must remove to do so, and the building blocks that need to be put in place today to help us lead the world tomorrow.”

While the exact technologies that will enable 5G have yet to be specifically defined, the report outlines “The Five G’s of 5G,” which characterize the next generation of wireless:

  • Gigabit speeds that enable data rates of 10Gbps or higher;
  • Gigahertz frequencies capable of using spectrum above 6 GHz;
  • Greater flexibility to enable networks to rapidly adapt to a broader range of demands;
  • Gee-whiz gadgets that are connected, intelligent and able to anticipate our needs; and
  • Global competition as 5G leaders drive opportunity and reap its many rewards.

The report emphasizes that as mobile broadband becomes the predominant communications platform of our time, and serves as the global backbone expanding Internet of Things, the next wireless revolution will need to be about more than blazing fast speeds. Kohlenberger points to the urgent need for network technology that can support billions of simultaneously connected devices, as well as provide quicker reaction times, exceptional network reliability, and the ability to switch between spectrum bands and networks without delay.

“As this smart revolution spreads from the wireless device in the palm of our hands to the smart watches, smart meters, smart cars, smart buildings, smart cities and smarter everything, smarter wireless policy becomes even more vital,” Kohlenberger writes, pointing to several key areas where policymakers can make a difference.

The report details that a comprehensive strategy to “Mobilize America” must:

  • Address our nation’s toughest challenges.  Reducing barriers to wireless-led innovation can help accelerate breakthrough solutions aimed at achieving major national objectives – from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to improving automobile safety, to revolutionizing health care.
  • Accelerate access to vital spectrum.  Since it can take as long as seven years to free up a single spectrum band, and the U.S. currently has no national plan for identifying spectrum beyond 2020, policymakers must develop a long-term strategy for maximizing the national benefits that can come from pursuing increasingly scarce spectrum and making it available to support rapidly expanding wireless connectivity.
  • Lower barriers for mobile innovation and investment.  World-leading wireless networks require massive private sector investment—$32 billion last year in the United States alone.  Ensuring a policy environment that is consistent and constructive in encouraging this formidable competitive advantage for our nation is essential.
  • Crank up the R&D innovation engine.  While our global rivals invest billions in 5G research, overall U.S. federal spending on research and development as a share of total government outlays has fallen from nearly 10 percent during the height of the space race in 1968 to just 3 percent in 2015. We must do better.
  • Fill the talent pipeline. There are roughly half a million U.S. job openings that have not been filled in information technology fields like software development, network administration and cybersecurity.  Creating opportunities for American workers to receive the training and education they need to participate in a 5G economy will accelerate job growth—and our nation’s wireless innovation leadership.

“With a forward-looking regulatory approach, marked by restraint and certainty, there is no doubt that the U.S. will continue to lead the world in developing the next generation networks that will fuel our planet’s increasingly connected lives and economies,” said Mobile Future Chair Jonathan Spalter. “As Jim’s report aptly describes, however, this future depends on a pragmatic strategy to overcoming the barriers before us and a shared national commitment to seizing the incredible opportunities that lie ahead.”

 While 5G networks are unlikely to be deployed until the end of the decade at the earliest, the paper stresses that the global race to lead the world in this next wireless frontier is already well underway. The report points to several signs that other countries are working to surpass the U.S., including Europe’s investment in a 5G Public-Private Partnership, South Korea’s plans to launch a 5G trial network when it hosts the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, and China’s creation of an interagency “promotion group” to coordinate 5G activities among industry and academia.

“With the future even closer than we think, it will take swift action and a bigger vision, with bolder action, for a brighter mobile broadband future,” the report urges. “To get there, policymakers need to develop a comprehensive national strategy to mobilize America and ensure U.S. leadership in the transition from 4G to 5G.”