America’s economy, technological leadership, and security depend on spectrum—the frequencies used to transmit radio signals for all wireless technologies. Spectrum is a strategically essential area in global technological competition, as it underpins the digital economies of the U.S. and our allies and partners. Spectrum is essential not just for everyday digital products like televisions, cell phones, and Wi-Fi routers, but also for core infrastructure, including critical sectors like aviation, manufacturing, energy, and defense. At the same time, spectrum is a scarce resource—one that needs careful management to sustain American innovation and security.
Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is issuing a landmark National Spectrum Strategy and a Presidential Memorandum on modernizing U.S. spectrum policy that, together, lay out a blueprint for American innovation, competition, and security in advanced wireless technologies. This blueprint includes new actions to improve spectrum management and spectrum access—including a study of more than 2,700 megahertz of spectrum for potential repurposing that will help ensure that both the public and private sectors have the spectrum resources they need to deliver critical services to every community in America. It will also ensure that the U.S. uses spectrum policy as a critical lever to retain global leadership in wireless technology, creating an ecosystem of equipment, products, and applications and a virtuous cycle of innovation.
The National Strategy and Presidential Memorandum will guide decisions about how to allocate limited spectrum resources and ensure these decisions are made through a rigorous, transparent process, which is more important today than ever, as new technologies create increasing demands for spectrum. Innovations ranging from 5G networks, to precision agriculture, to unmanned aerial vehicles, to moon missions take large amounts of spectrum to operate. Meeting the demands of innovation requires America’s spectrum policy to adapt and improve.
The National Spectrum Strategy released today announces further steps to strengthen interagency coordination, promote innovation, and ensure efficient spectrum use. The Strategy was developed by the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) in response to direction from President Biden, in close coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the many federal agencies relying on spectrum. It articulates four pillars containing essential actions for ensuring that spectrum policy advances U.S. innovation, economic vitality, and security.
Pillar 1: A Spectrum Pipeline to Ensure U.S. Leadership in Advanced and Emerging Technologies. Spectrum availability is not just a long-term challenge. Technological advances require more efficient spectrum use today. To address near-term spectrum needs, the Strategy announces:
- In-depth near-term study of 2,786 megahertz of spectrum for potential repurposing. After receiving extensive public input, NTIA has identified five bands for study. These are the 3.1-3.45 GHz, 5.03-5.091 GHz, 7.125-8.4 GHz, 18.1-18.6 GHz, and 37.0-37.6 GHz bands. This mix of bands could support a range of uses, including wireless broadband, drones, and satellite operations. NTIA will complete its study within 2 years.
- Guiding principles for near-term allocation. These principles involve soliciting input from all stakeholders, data-based analysis, coordinated execution of plans to repurpose spectrum, and ongoing monitoring.
Pillar 2: Collaborative Long-Term Planning to Support the Nation’s Evolving Spectrum Needs. A vast range of private stakeholders and government agencies need spectrum to deliver essential products and services. Long-term decisions about spectrum allocation, therefore, must involve broad-based input and transparent processes, which will help spectrum users make prudent long-term investments. To achieve these goals, the Strategy announces the following steps:
- Coordinated, collaborative framework for long-term spectrum planning. In particular, the Biden-Harris Administration will develop robust processes that incorporate the full input of industry stakeholders, federal agencies, and advisory groups in spectrum allocation decisions. This framework will execute the Presidential Memorandum’s directives for greater interagency coordination, while building on existing interagency Memoranda of Understanding regarding spectrum decision making and expanding private sector participation.
- Evidence-based methodology for spectrum allocation decisions. To support transparent allocation decisions, the Biden-Harris Administration will develop values-based models—as well as best practices for technical and economic analyses—that quantify the benefits of different spectrum allocation options.
- Regular updates to the National Spectrum Strategy. Based on the broad-based stakeholder inputs it receives, NTIA will update the Strategy regularly to ensure it supports effective coordination, addresses gaps in spectrum policy, and promotes U.S. spectrum leadership.
Pillar 3: Unprecedented Spectrum Access and Management Through Technology Development. Cutting-edge spectrum technologies and techniques like spectrum sharing hold great promise for promoting efficient use and ensuring that—even though spectrum is finite—the U.S. is able achieve spectrum abundance for all users. To accelerate spectrum innovation and ensure that the U.S. remains at the leading edge in this critical technology, the Strategy announces an ambitious effort under which the U.S. government will, within 12-18 months, advance research, create investment incentives, and set forth measurable goals to advance spectrum access technology. This effort, which the U.S. government will undertake in collaboration with industry, will include the following:
- Establish spectrum testbeds. The Biden-Harris Administration will establish a national testbed for dynamic spectrum sharing within 12-18 months. It will also increase the availability of outdoor wireless testbeds and explore the establishment of spectrum “sandboxes”—that is, areas dedicated for spectrum research.
- Develop a National Spectrum Research and Development (R&D) Plan. The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) will develop this plan to identify key areas for work to support spectrum innovation.
- Encourage private-sector R&D. Federal agencies will collaborate with industry, technology developers, and academia to encourage dynamic spectrum sharing through innovative technologies and techniques—including cloud-based spectrum management and AI-enabled methods. NTIA will also pursue the development of a common spectrum management platform to manage shared access.
Pillar 4: Expanded Spectrum Expertise and Elevated National Awareness. America’s long-term spectrum innovation depends on its leading-edge spectrum workforce, as well as broader public appreciation for spectrum’s vital role in our society. To foster spectrum expertise and awareness, the Strategy announces the following actions:
- National Spectrum Workforce Plan. The Biden-Harris Administration will create and periodically update a plan for developing a workforce able to fill the full range of operational, technical, and policy roles in the future spectrum ecosystem.
- Educating policymakers and the public. Federal agencies will work to ensure that policymakers at all levels, including state, local, and Tribal governments, have access to information needed for decisions involving spectrum. The Administration will also prioritize educating members of the public about the role spectrum plays in everyday life.
The Presidential Memorandum serves as the basis for the National Spectrum Strategy by directing NTIA to provide President Biden with a National Spectrum Strategy. The Presidential Memorandum also directs further action by federal agencies to ensure that U.S. spectrum policy is coordinated and consistent in the following ways:
- Reaffirms joint management of our nation’s spectrum resources by NTIA and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and reiterates that NTIA is the President’s principal advisor on spectrum issues and the voice of the Administration in matters before the FCC.
- Establishes a Spectrum Advisory Council as the principal interagency forum for senior agency leaders to advise NTIA on spectrum policy. The Council is made up of agencies holding Federal spectrum assignments or otherwise having spectrum-related statutory authorities.
- Creates a White House led dispute resolution process should NTIA and an agency disagree over the position the Administration should take on a spectrum issue and sets forth how the White House will resolve those issues.