Potential $200 Billion Loss for U.S. Economy Without Global Spectrum Harmonization: Report

The U.S. faces challenges in harmonizing the 3.45-3.55 GHz band with its global counterparts, the report said.

Potential $200 Billion Loss for U.S. Economy Without Global Spectrum Harmonization: Report
Photo of 2015 World Radiocommunications Conference published with permission.

WASHINGTON, February 8, 2024 –  The United States’s economy stands to lose up to $200 billion in benefits from global spectrum harmonization if certain actions are not taken, according to a report published by CTIA on Wednesday.

These benefits include up to $155 billion in economic benefits linked to U.S. leadership in a more harmonized global wireless ecosystem, including industry creation, job expansion, technology exports, and increased domestic innovation, according to the report. 

Additionally, there’s an expected cost savings of up to $44 billion for consumers and businesses due to higher-quality wireless technologies resulting from production standardization, it said. 

The report finds the U.S. is trailing several countries in terms of making mid-band spectrum available as the Federal Communications Commission is still without a renewed authority to auction that spectrum. 

While recent international spectrum allocation decisions reflect a trend towards greater harmonization worldwide, particularly in the 3.3-3.8 GigaHertz band, guided by advice given at global events like the World Radio Conference.

Harmonizing the 3.45-3.55 GHz range in the U.S. faces distinct challenges. These obstacles include power restrictions and sharing scheme complications with the Citizens Broadband Radio Service, along with barriers posed by the incumbent user of the band, the U.S. Defense Department.

CTIA’s Vice President of Spectrum Umair Javed emphasized to Broadband Breakfast that the recent World Radio Conference intensified the significance of this issue.

He stated the opportunity to seize economic benefits through the allocation of internationally harmonized spectrum plays a crucial role in supporting U.S. trusted vendors and, consequently, national security.

The agenda for the WRC 2023 proposed considering the 3.3-3.4 GHz, 4.8-4.99 GHz, and 6.425-7.125 GHz ranges for future global spectrum harmonization. The mid-band spectrum’s lower latency makes it particularly suitable for commercial applications like 5G fixed wireless access, facilitating endeavors such as industrial IoT, precision agriculture, and more.

Aligned with these suggestions, the CTIA report advocates for the U.S. to license additional spectrum, particularly in the 3.3-3.45 GHz, 4.4-4.94 GHz, and 7.125-8.5 GHz ranges.

As of September 2022, the U.S. had 270 megahertz of mid-band spectrum available for commercial wireless use, with an additional 180 MHz of C-Band (between 3.7 and 4.2 GHz) allocated since then, bringing the U.S. total available mid-band spectrum to 450 MHz. 

Comparing this figure to its global counterparts, based on a September 2022 Analysys Mason report, the U.S. lagged several countries in licensed mid-band spectrum for mobile use, with a 282 megahertz gap relative to five leading nations identified in the report. This gap is projected to nearly double by 2027 due to the lack of mid-band in the pipeline.

With mobile data traffic in North America forecast to grow over 18 percent over the next six years, absent any new allocations in spectrum, the U.S. will have a significant mid-band gap, with a forecasted deficit of 400 MHz by 2027, and up to a 1,400 MHz by 2032.