The Strategic Imperative of US Leadership in Next-Generation Networks

The internet—and, more specifically, the ubiquitously connected society driven largely by next-generation wireless broadband—will be a crucial domain for both autocracies and market democracies in the twenty-first century. Remote and mobile connectivity is an increasingly essential component of a functioning modern society; if leveraged for dynamism and innovation rather than authoritarian command and control, fifth-generation (5G) wireless connectivity provides the foundation for solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. Telecommunications regulatory governance is therefore a powerful strategic security lever that the United States and its allies should wield to advance free-market democracy. To this end, this paper recommends the following policy solutions:

  • First, the US should foster rapid 5G deployment by continuing to make low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum—particularly licensed spectrum designated for flexible, exclusive use suitable for cutting-edge mobile networks—available to the commercial wireless market; reducing barriers to deployment such as European-style patchwork siting and licensing regulations; and maximizing the impact of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) by funding fixed-wireless services where fiber to the premises is not the most effective solution.
  • Second, the US should pave the way for future innovation by clarifying and reestablishing the Federal Communication Commission as the federal government’s primary authority for commercial spectrum allocation to head off interagency spectrum disputes early and thoughtfully; and advance the efficient use of spectrum through exclusive-use licenses, flexible-use rights, reliance on market forces to ensure spectrum is put to its highest and best use, the development of a new pipeline for auctionable spectrum, and investment-friendly technical rules.
  • Third, the United States should work with its allies to prove that competitive free-market democracies best foster trusted, innovative communications technologies by promoting trust in communications networks and supply chains, leveraging partnerships with like-minded nations to counter predatory practices and promote global economies of scale for network operators and vendors serving these markets; and safeguarding international standards-setting processes for private sector technological innovation and protecting intellectual property rights.

The Strategic Imperative of U.S. Leadership in Next-Generation Networks