NTIA’s Scott Blake Harris Emphasizes Importance of Government Coordination on Spectrum Strategy in #MWC22 Keynote

Scott Blake Harris, Senior Spectrum Advisor at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (@NTIAgov), gave the keynote address to launch the “Everything Policy” track at Mobile World Congress in Las Vegas, discussing the federal government’s approach to wireless spectrum. Harris opened by telling the audience that he did not plan to make news, but he offered forceful support for the idea that NTIA and the federal government would find the spectrum necessary to allow the US to continue to deploy 5G and 6G services. Not finding enough spectrum for these services would be “wholly unacceptable,” according to Harris.

At the same time, he emphasized the delicate balance that NTIA and the rest of the government have to strike. Governmental uses of spectrum are critical to national security, disaster response, and even intercepting asteroids – and some of those government uses are “very very very advanced,” so much so that they can’t even be discussed without clearance. As the private sector is innovating, the government is doing the same thing.

To achieve that balance, Harris noted that the federal government is planning to develop a forward-looking spectrum strategy that will provide certainty for a decade or more, and avoid any more “clusterbeeps” like the one that happened with the 5G rollout in the C-Band, when the FAA asserted at the last minute that the long-planned C-Band transition would result in risks to aircraft – a concern that was ultimately resolved, but not before it led to breathless front page headlines and delays in launching this critical service.

To get there, Harris envisions starting with public comments on which bands are most desirable and then continuing the process with colleagues across the government. Inevitably, hitting the right balance will require more spectrum sharing, but the good news from Harris’s point of view is that new technologies like Incumbent Informing Capability (IIC) will make this sharing easier and more dynamic.

Harris closed by reassuring the audience that there is far better and more collaboration across government agencies than he has seen since starting in the communications industry in 1994. NTIA and FCC, for example, are institutionalizing greater cooperation, both through additional communication and by adopting an updated Memorandum of Understanding between the agencies. NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson spoke further to this collaboration in a recent Wiley podcast.

Harris’s bottom line? There should be no more misunderstandings, no more miscommunications…in short, no more “clusterbeeps.” And the next time a spectrum issue leads the news, it should be for good reasons.

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Are you at #MWC22 this week? We’d love to catch up! Reach out to anyone in the Wiley delegation: Megan BrownScott DelacourtJosh TurnerEdgar ClassCharles McKeeKat ScottSara Baxenberg, and Steve Conley. Stay tuned to Wiley Connect for more updates from the conference!

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