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Spectrum Policy

Spectrum Sharing Means Incredible Innovation

December 7, 2023

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A new era of innovation is underway – all thanks to “spectrum sharing.” 

In a recent post, we showed how shared licensing of these invisible radio wave frequencies differs from unlicensed and exclusive-licensed spectrum. While licensed spectrum sharing is fairly new, it’s already supporting cutting-edge developments and technologies, and enabling smarter cities and communities, more efficient small businesses, automated manufacturing, and the transformation of the US economy and everyday life.

Not only does spectrum sharing allow for technological innovation, but it also makes efficient use of a scarce resource. 

  • Exclusive spectrum licensing restricts access to just a select few users – that means any preexisting users of the radio wave frequencies must first be evicted, which often results in immense relocation costs and substantial delay.
  • But shared spectrum licensing makes it possible to have multiple users from assorted backgrounds and industries share the same wireless frequencies. That means existing users can stay in the band while also creating space for new commercial users and saving costly relocation time and expense.

For example, in the 3.1-3.45 GHz band a shared licensing framework can: (1) preserve existing uses like the Department of Defense’s (DoD) critical operations to protect our national security, (2) save the significant costs, delays, and complexities of relocating existing users; and (3) offer new commercial licenses that are more accessible and cost effective for users of all sizes… and the value to the US Government remains net positive and may even exceed exclusive license auction values, depending on the frequencies available. 

At a community level, public agencies, private companies, and local non-profits are already making the most of spectrum sharing. It supports everything from small personal technologies that we now take for granted to big developments in critical fields:

  • Smarter, More Efficient Farms and Manufacturers: Spectrum sharing has empowered farmers to use new technologies to increase food yields and lower food costs. American manufacturers are similarly using spectrum sharing technologies to improve worker safety and strengthen their global, national, and local competitive advantages.
  • Stronger Community Institutions: Local schools and libraries use spectrum sharing to deliver technologies essential to children’s education, parents’ workforce training and employment, and economic mobility resources for underserved communities.
  • Faster, Better Healthcare: Hospitals are using spectrum sharing technologies to find new ways to test and treat patients outside the traditional hospital setting, including with improved remote patient monitoring and communication. This expands access while leading to faster and more responsive care.
  • Faster Shipping and Better Travel: Seaports, warehouses, transportation companies – virtually every part of the global supply chain – are using spectrum sharing to speed up shipping and deliveries. Meanwhile, airports are offering a better experience to travelers, including access to 5G. 
  • Cutting-Edge Phones and Homes: Your smartphone, wireless headphones, speaker systems, home cameras, and even your gaming console all rely on spectrum sharing. It’s shaping your ability to connect with friends, enjoy leisure time, and interact with the broader world.
  • Better Sports, Entertainment, and Shopping: Stadiums, concert venues, and malls are using spectrum sharing to improve the guest experience, including by facilitating faster and easier parking.
  • Safer Cities and Streets: Cities are using spectrum sharing to give law enforcement more tools to keep communities safe, including license plate recognition and drone reconnaissance.

These are only a few of the groundbreaking innovations that spectrum sharing has already made possible – and the best is yet to come. The incredible advances in industrial automation, expanded 5G access and innovation that we’ve seen already in spectrum sharing’s infancy make it more important than ever to encourage its continued development and expansion into more frequencies for the sake of families, job creators, communities, the economy, and our country. The future of innovation depends on spectrum sharing – and Americans deserve to reap its rewards.