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Remarks by Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the NTIA Spectrum Policy Symposium


Introduced by David Redl, Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, and Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Thank you, David, for your kind introduction. Thanks to all of you for attending this first Spectrum Policy Symposium. And thank you, panelists and speakers, for your commitment to advancing our high-tech industries like telecommunications and commercialization of space.

The United States leads the world in these industries, and the Commerce Department is committed to fortifying that leadership.

The U.S. wireless industry supports more than 4.7 million American jobs and contributes almost a half-a-trillion dollars — $475 billion — annually to the economy.

But we cannot be complacent. While the United States leads the world in the application of 4G wireless technology, China and South Korea are trying hard to position themselves to dominate the next generation of 5G.

China is shaping up to be the biggest 5G market by 2022, and the Chinese government has targeted 5G to develop its indigenous industry and dominate global export markets. But, as you know from the recent publicity surrounding ZTE, they do not yet themselves have all of the necessary technology.

It is estimated that 5G could create up to 3 million new American jobs, and generate $500 billion a year in economic growth. That would be a 2.5 percentage point increase in our GDP.

The first 5G phones should be ready in 2019, and all four nationwide mobile operators in the United States (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon) are expected to be generating 5G service revenues of at least $1 billion in the U.S. by the end of next year. This will be a major milestone for our wireless industry, and we are working at creating the conditions for 5G to prosper here.

We understand the importance of a sound spectrum policy to accelerate 5G growth. That is why we want to hear from all of you — as policymakers and leaders, inside and outside of government — about the spectrum needed for 5G, and for American companies to be successful in both domestic and global markets. This includes the satellite industry, as new technologies, including those powering non-geostationary constellations, promise to support widespread connectivity.

On the government side, we are dedicated to ensuring that NASA, DOD, FAA, NOAA, the intelligence community, and other agencies have access to the spectrum needed to support their missions to protect the public, foster economic activity, and advance our scientific enterprises.

Across all of these areas, our international efforts are critical. The Commerce Department engages actively in the international forums that determine global spectrum allocations, set technical standards, and develop new technologies.

NTIA represents the federal government’s positions on spectrum issues at the International Telecommunication Union’s World Radiocommunication Conferences, which occur every three to four years. These conferences determine global spectrum allocations, and the processes to coordinate orbits of satellites through a treaty-level agreement.

Our staff at NTIA is currently working with other federal agencies and the FCC to develop negotiating positions for the next WRC, which is scheduled for the fall of 2019.

As we engage with the ITU, I ask that you support the election of Doreen Bogdan-Martin, a former NTIA staffer, as the ITU’s Development-Sector Director. Our Administration has put its full support behind Doreen. She is well versed in U.S. policy objectives, and has championed our pro-growth and pro-competition satellite policies. If elected, she would be the first woman on the ITU’s senior executive team.

On May 24, President Trump issued a directive aimed at taking additional steps to maintain and extend the nation’s global leadership in commercial space activity. Space is already a $340 billion business and may soon be a trillion-dollar industry.

To realize our commercial space potential, our government needs to make it easier for the private sector to achieve success. We are already seeing improvements. Last year, Commerce signed an agreement with the Departments of Defense, State, Interior, and the Director of National Intelligence, to reduce wait times on satellite remote sensing applications. The agreement sets more definitive timelines for license decisions, and elevates decision-making to senior government officials if deadlines are not met. Before its implementation, the average time to receive a NOAA license was 210 days. Now, thanks to these improvements, NOAA estimates the average time to grant licenses has been reduced by more than 50 percent, to an average of 91 days.

This brings me to the Space Council’s initiative to create a “one-stop shop” at the Commerce Department for space commerce. The Department is creating a new Space Administration within the Office of the Secretary, and is repositioning and consolidating its space commerce functions under my direct supervision.

This office will create a streamlined, central interface at the Department for industry needs relating to remote sensing, export controls, spectrum concerns, trade promotion, space traffic management, and space situational awareness, to name a few.

The Office of Space Commerce and the Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs Office — both currently housed in NOAA — are being elevated to the new Space Administration. We will also soon name a Director of the Office of Space Commerce, a position that has been vacant for almost 10 years.

Our ultimate objective is to provide the space commerce industry with a single place within the federal government to address the majority of its needs. This includes support of NTIA's spectrum management and policy functions.

Spectrum policy will play an important role in our efforts to advance space commerce. This symposium comes at an opportune time as we strive for U.S. leadership in 5G and other advanced technologies. We are focusing on spectrum policies to guide our efforts now and into the future. The views you share with us today will help advance the President’s goals both domestically and internationally.

Thank you again for your participation and your ongoing work to maintain U.S. leadership in these important industries.