American national security requires smart spectrum planning

The United States has always been on the cutting edge of tech. Our free-market system enabled us to win the race to 4G, helped unleash the app economy, and allowed us to get to 5G faster than others. Our country’s leadership in tech helps secure the nation’s economic power and protect national security so the United States continues to serve as a beacon of peace and democracy.

Technology should be a force for good in the world. Our national security, and the security of other nations, is tied to our ability to keep up with and get ahead of emerging technologies. I’m encouraged to see that Congress is working together to implement a national spectrum policy. America needs a national strategy to make sure there is enough spectrum to build out 5G networks and not fall behind China.

Spectrum refers to the radio waves on which we transmit data, and it serves as the foundation for many of the wireless networks that power our lives, including 5G. Spectrum is the lifeblood of technological innovation — including advancements in national security that power our weapons systems and intelligence operations.

5G is quite literally the fifth generation of wireless connection, and it serves as a crucial foundation for innovations and advancements in the near and not-too-distant future. Alarmingly, America does not have enough spectrum in the pipeline to build out secure and reliable 5G networks. According to a paper by Analysys Mason, the United States ranks 13th in terms of available licensed spectrum — significantly behind nations such as China, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.

One reason why is that the United States has overallocated spectrum to unlicensed use. This type of spectrum is available to the public and has important uses, but it’s not the foundation of secure and reliable 5G networks. Unlike managed licensed spectrum, unlicensed spectrum faces interference, and devices connected to unlicensed spectrum aren’t always assessed for security concerns. Indeed, when it comes to security, users of unlicensed spectrum have varying incentives, capabilities and technical skills, resulting in more cybersecurity risks than those who use managed licensed…