Spectrum policy is not the only major shaper of access provider business models, but it is, among key influences, arguably the single-greatest determinant of mobile and wireless provider business models, simply because, without spectrum access, no business is possible.
That has been the rule in the mobile business globally, up to this point. But there is at least some fraying of that older model, as unlicensed spectrum now becomes a platform for new competitors, as huge blocks of new –and likely cheaper–spectrum are made available, and as shared spectrum becomes more common as well.
One element of all that change is that “5G could transform the wireless world and provide even more robust competition to wired networks,” said Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai. In principle, all the new assets will allow new competitors to enter the untethered or mobile markets, as well.
In 2016, the FCC opened up nearly 11 GHz of spectrum in the bands above 24 GHz for mobile use. The FCC further authorized the first-ever LTE-unlicensed (LTE-U) devices in the 5 GHz band, a move that will lead the way for spectrum sharing overall, and for the use of licensed and unlicensed spectrum to support mobile communications.
The FCC might also accelerate release of additional spectrum. “As part of our so-called ‘Spectrum Frontiers’ proceeding, we asked questions about allowing novel wireless uses and technologies in frequencies above 95 GHz,” said Pai. “Those frequencies haven’t traditionally been used for mobile wireless technologies.”
Signaling faster decision making, Pai noted that “applications for experimentation above the 95 GHz band could qualify for Section seven treatment.” That is significant. Section seven of the Communications Act requires that decisions about whether a petition or application is in the public interest should occur within one year after such petition or application is filed. In other words, should entities ask for permission to run services above 95 GHz, they might now expect a “yes or no” decision within 12 months.