What to Watch in 2018

The professionals at Freedom Technologies present What to Watch in 2018 with regard to spectrum technology issues. If we can help your organization in these or other technology areas in 2018, you can contact us through this site here.

  1. New National Spectrum Policy Roadmap:With a full roster of FCC Commissioners and a new NTIA Administrator, the pieces are in place for the White House to roll out a new spectrum direction. The recently released National Security Strategy along with discussion around an infrastructure bill point to the Administration’s recognition of the importance of 5G to both the economy and the nation’s security, at least from an infrastructure point of view.  How this will impact the Administration’s placement of its stamp on broadband spectrum policy is yet to be seen.  As we begin 2018, some important questions remain outstanding, including whether and how spectrum efficiency/incentives issues get addressed as part of new national policy; whether Congress advances the AIRWAVES Act or other legislation; and the degree to which spectrum sharing remains an emphasis of policy versus clearing and auction.
  2. 5G Pushing Forward:In 2018, the 5G train will continue to roll.  The FCC has identified spectrum in 3.5 GHz and the millimeter wave bands and is studying new mid-band segments. Additionally, new standards are being developed and finalized, operators and equipment manufacturers are engaged in multiple testing efforts, and operators are announcing deployments. We will also see increasing activity on standards and the first 5G deployments with AT&T and Verizon, both touting fixed wireless.  T-Mobile will continue to rapidly deploy its 600 MHz licenses nationwide, which it promises will be able to support 5G.   Qualcomm, Samsung, Intel, and others will continue to showcase mobile equipment for the millimeter wave band.   With the 2019/2020 timeframe largely regarded as the target for widespread rollout, a wide range of activities are set to occur in 2018 that will determine whether this timeframe remains true.
  3. Spectrum and Data Security Convergence:In 2018, we expect to see the continuation of the trend to improve data security of new spectrum sharing mechanisms, such as the 3.5 GHz bands spectrum access systems (SAS) and the TV white spaces database.  The emergence of consumer and enterprise IoT devices and resultant security concerns are also being raised prominently within federal agencies, Congress, and the general public. We expect that these will continue to play a role in the larger communications space.
  4. NGSO Satellite Constellations:A potential revolution is happening in commercial space, at least based on initial deployment plans, not all of which may come to fruition. 2018 promises further advances in the impending deployment of high throughput satellites, delivering 50-200 Gbps to 1 TBps by the 2020s. Innovation is happening in all satellite bands (hybrid C, Ku, L/S systems; Ka, and even Q-V systems under construction), moving towards an open architecture (all IP & 5G) and enabling fully integrated heterogeneous networks, which are highly cost effective and comparable to terrestrial networks, for ubiquitous connectivity on land, air, and sea. As national and regional positions emerge for WRC-19 throughout the coming year, the operating location of these multiple thousand+ -bird constellations will be decided. The FCC has also started a proceeding that will see action in 2018: given the recent trends in the satellite industry and changes in technology, the Commission is set to review the rules governing NGSO FSS operations. In general,commercial space appears to have captured the attention of the White House, including Vice President Pence in particular, as can be seen with the revival of the National Space Council. With the expected confirmation of Jim Bridenstine as NASA administrator, 2018 should see commercial space partnerships further leveraged by the US government as the best approach for NASA to achieve its ambitious policy goals. We are also likely to see rocket reusability becoming commonplace, a hundred newly-minted astronauts, and billions more in capital flow to the industry.
  5. The Next Spectrum Auction(s):While Congress and the FCC have identified spectrum for the next set of auctions, the FCC’s ability to conduct them is still in limbo.  Large financial institutions no longer accept pre-auction deposits and the FCC cannot do so under current law. Until Congress steps in to fix this, the timing of the next auctions will remain uncertain.   In the meantime, the wireless industry eagerly awaits Congress to resolve this dilemma so it can obtain spectrum in 3.5 GHz and in the millimeter wave bands, including 24 GHz, 28 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz.  While the wireless industry appears poised to rapidly commercialize the 3.5 GHz band, the FCC is still considering rule changes that are expected to make the band even more carrier (and less unlicensed) friendly. Already, chipsets are being readied for use, spectrum access system (SAS) providers are in place, and operators have added network density through small cells, so the pieces are in place for the band to be rapidly deployed after an auction is conducted.