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This piece was originally published in the Super Mobility Week Official Show Daily. 

After FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler spoke during Day One, the rest of the FCC took the stage together on Day Two.

CTIA CEO Meredith Attwell Baker played game show host as  Mignon Clyburn, Michael O’Rielly, Ajit Pai and Jessica Rosenworcel took turns fielding questions covering a variety of wireless industry topics during Day Two of Super Mobility Week.

The commissioners took turns fielding questions on topics ranging from Lifeline to infrastructure. But eventually the conversation veered toward 5G.

Rosenworcel noted how the bulk of the spectrum activity when it comes to mobile takes place at 3 GHz and below and said the industry needs to go all the way up to 24 GHz and combine that with small cell densification to achieve the promise of 5G.

She said countries like Japan and South Korea are moving fast with standards and development and that the United States needs to pick up the pace, including the FCC issuing rulemaking on millimeter wave spectrum as soon as possible.

With 2020 in mind as the predicted jumping off point for 5G, Attwell Baker reiterated CTIA’s assertion that an additional 350 megahertz of new licensed spectrum needs to be freed up by that time.

Clyburn pointed out that the FCC has already made 145 MHz of spectrum available and is encouraging current spectrum holders to use that spectrum in the best and most efficient manner. The Commission is also taking steps to speed up the spectrum re-allocation process.

“It shouldn’t take 13 years to re-allocate spectrum in the modern mobile economy,” Rosenworcel said.

Federal authorities control a lot of airwaves and they don’t have to internalize the cost of holding onto those airwaves.

Rosenworcel said the FCC’s current strategy where “we beg them for scraps of spectrum they might not use” is not optimal. She said instead the FCC should be looking at incentives so that every federal authority with spectrum has reason to be efficient with their spectrum and could possibly be compensated for re-allocating the spectrum they don’t necessarily need.

O’Rielly favored a slightly stricter approach.

“You need carrots and you need sticks,” O’Rielly

He championed an existing suggestion regarding putting an opportunity cost on federal agencies with spectrum so that costs related to holding onto their spectrum would be built into their budgets.

Outside of hot topics like 5G and spectrum, the panel also touched on mobile video.

“As regulators, it presents some challenges,” Pai said. 

“It’s important for us to remember that mobile video isn’t just a YouTube clip of cats playing together,” added Pai, seeing real value from some of the innovations emerging in mobile video.

Pai said the Commission would do best in staying its hand in trying to regulate over-the-top services because that could have an adverse effect on innovation.

Rosenworcel added that mobile ad blocking throws in an interesting wrinkle for mobile video. On one hand, she said, it’s good for consumers. But on the other hand, it could put pressure on monetization and could influence the types of content that could be shown via mobile video.

 

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