Key Takeaways from the TPI Winter Spectrum Series

Key Takeaways from the TPI Winter Spectrum Series

The TPI Winter Spectrum Series commemorated the 30th anniversary of the first spectrum auction by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1994. In six virtual events on January 29, February 7, and February 12, 2024, panelists discussed the current spectrum landscape with international and domestic competition as applied to mobile networks, satellite, and other governmental functions.

On the first day of panels, Umair Javed, John Leibovitz, Giulia McHenry, Becky Tangren, and Sarah Oh Lam met for a panel entitled, “30 Years of Auctions: Looking Back and Looking Ahead” to debate the role of auctions in distributing spectrum today. Giulia provided context on the FCC’s institutional knowledge gained over the last 30 years in conducting auctions. Sarah asked if regulators have the information they need or if predicting outcomes from auctions and band plans is always unknown. Umair noted the need for cleared mid-band spectrum and Becky emphasized that unlicensed spectrum has benefits beyond auctions. John discussed whether the commercial sector needs custom approaches or more standardized policy goals.

Evan Kwerel, Paul Milgrom, and Scott Wallsten convened in the afternoon for a fireside chat entitled “Beauty Contests to Auctions: What Is the Next Step?” They shared memories of what it was like to watch and conduct the very first spectrum auction in 1994. “It takes a lot for economists to stampede,” noted Scott as he remembered how it felt to watch economists peering into the computers at Stanford to see results from the auction. Paul and Evan reminisced about how new the concept of auctions was at the time and what it meant for the FCC to adopt the new market mechanism. Paul and Evan discussed the future of auctions and how to reallocate more spectrum given institutional constraints.

On the second day of the series, Shawn Bone, Gus Hurwitz, David Redl, Jennifer Warren, and Sarah Oh Lam talked about spectrum reauthorization and the spectrum pipeline in a panel entitled, “Spectrum Pipeline: Discussion of Reauthorization, Inventory, and Incentives in Exclusive Use and Shared Spectrum Bands.” Shawn discussed the timeline for spectrum pipeline goals and the history of prior legislation that enabled auctions. Jennifer and David discussed the PATHSS process and the benefits of close coordination in recent spectrum coordination. Gus reminded us about the role and capability of institutions to make decisions about the pipeline and bemoaned what he sees as a decline in the use of market-based mechanisms to allocate spectrum.

Dale Hatfield sat down with Scott Wallsten to talk about “Growing Threats to Wireless Communications and How to Address Them.” Dale discussed wireless network security threats, such as jamming, spoofing, or sniffing (unauthorized interception). He pointed out security-related vulnerabilities that have concerned him he believes not enough has been done to address. Scott asked Dale about recent security incidents and how regulators should address these vulnerabilities.

On the last day of programming, David Goldman, Kalpak Gude, Whitney Lohmeyer, Edgar Rivas, and Sarah Oh Lam discussed “The Race for Space: Property Rights in Satellite Spectrum.” Edgar talked about recent and upcoming legislative activity in Congress for the U.S. space and satellite sector. Kalpak noted the need for U.S. leadership as global competition increases, and David emphasized the resources that state-backed ventures in space will have to launch and deploy in the near and long term. Whitney gave a view from the FCC Space Bureau, which has been receiving applications for new and experimental satellite licenses for uses such as space-based manufacturing.

Christopher Yoo and Scott Wallsten had a fireside chat on “Frontiers of Space Policy.” Christopher and Scott discussed the capabilities of the regulators and institutions that manage space policy in the U.S. and internationally, such as the FCC, NASA, and the ITU. Scott asked if market mechanisms can be introduced into space to promote innovation and Christopher provided examples where reforms could be made and where international policy predominates.

Video Links:

Full Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLIbQnBe9lRS9h_wkL3-9QKObldz4I3J34

30 Years of Auctions: Looking Back and Looking Ahead: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mo_wmHpVpDQ&list=PLIbQnBe9lRS9h_wkL3-9QKObldz4I3J34

Beauty Contests Fireside Chat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAhlXzesFCg&list=PLIbQnBe9lRS9h_wkL3-9QKObldz4I3J34&index=4&t=2s&pp=iAQB

Pipeline Panel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=optTc70bGuA&list=PLIbQnBe9lRS9h_wkL3-9QKObldz4I3J34&index=2&pp=iAQB

Security Fireside Chat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_i2aX_inck&list=PLIbQnBe9lRS9h_wkL3-9QKObldz4I3J34&index=3&pp=iAQB

Space Panel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azgxD_o7gtA&list=PLIbQnBe9lRS9h_wkL3-9QKObldz4I3J34&index=5

Fireside Chat with Christopher Yoo: Frontiers of Space Policy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpLNwDVxdJE

Transcript Links:

30 Years of Auctions: Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Beauty Contests Fireside Chat

Spectrum Pipeline: Discussion of Reauthorization, Inventory, and Incentives in Exclusive Use and Shared Spectrum Bands

Growing Threats to Wireless Communications and How to Address Them: Fireside Chat with Dale Hatfield

The Race for Space: Property Rights in Satellite Spectrum

Frontiers of Space Policy: Fireside Chat with Christopher Yoo

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