The evolving 5G case study in spectrum management and industrial policy

Rob Frieden

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Even before the International Telecommunication Union (“ITU”) reaches consensus on spectrum allocations for fifth generation wireless technologies (“5G”), commercial ventures scramble to offer new equipment and services. Expediting 5G wireless service can benefit consumers and businesses at the risk of stressing the traditional process of spectrum planning that combines study, dialogue and consensus building at ITU conferences. This paper explains why most nations refused to endorse key United States 5G spectrum allocation proposals at the ITU's, 2015 World Radio Conference. U.S. representatives underestimated the time needed for consensus building, despite increasing demand for wireless video and the evolving Internet of Things. Other contributing factors include U.S. support for treating spectrum like property, use of “incentive auctions” to clear broadcast television spectrum with unprecedented speed and enough existing wireless spectrum allocations in most nations. The paper concludes that the U.S. cannot expect faster frequency reallocations, particularly when it and other nations pursue matters having little to do with spectrum optimization. The paper offers recommendations on best practices for improving the consensus building process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-562
Number of pages14
JournalTelecommunications Policy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Information Systems
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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