Cantwell Highlights Need for Collaborative Approach to National Spectrum Policy, New Sharing Innovation to Secure National Security

March 21, 2024

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, highlighted the need to better coordinate the federal government’s approach to spectrum policy and introduce new sharing technology to reignite commercial auctions and secure our communications networks. Her comments came during a hearing featuring expert testimony from experts in spectrum engineering and wireless technologies, economics and national security.

“Whether it is cell phones in our pockets, connected devices in our homes, critical defense systems in our military, radar and satellites for aviation, weather infrastructure—spectrum is an essential component of a modern communications system,” said Sen. Cantwell. “Collaboration is the key because that’s what we have to do to implement the next generation technology. We have to collaborate.”

Spectrum, or radio airwaves, transmit signals for wireless technologies and play a significant role in Americans’ daily lives and the United States’ overall national security. Along with being used for commercial use like 5G and Wi-Fi, the U.S. military uses a significant portion of the spectrum for national security communications.

Sen. Cantwell underscored the need to create a spectrum pipeline to grow economic opportunities, explaining that “innovation must expand spectrum access…with technologies like dynamic spectrum [sharing] to harness opportunities. Only through collaborative spectrum management and technological innovation, I believe, can we create a true pipeline. That’s what we really want to do. We want to…get it in place and continue to grow the opportunities. A sustainable, responsible vision will allow us to move forward.”

With new spectrum sharing technology, multiple users could access the same spectrum to maximize availability. Ensuring access to exclusive and shared spectrum is critical to ensuring U.S. economic and national security.

Dr. Monisha Ghosh, a wireless networks expert and spectrum policy director at the University of Notre Dame, advocated for dynamic spectrum sharing and innovation, saying in her testimony, “The U.S. leads the world today in innovations in spectrum policy that have delivered wireless applications that impact all aspects of our life, from broadband connectivity to national security and scientific breakthroughs. This leadership must continue to ensure that all options are evaluated to create a sustainable spectrum strategy for every system that requires access to spectrum. Dynamic Spectrum Sharing is a key technological innovation that was conceived of and first implemented in the U.S.; however, we must continue the innovations to ensure that both policies and technologies lead to the development of a truly sharing-native wireless ecosystem that continues to serve all needs.”

“U.S. spectrum leadership is directly pertinent to a secure supply chain and application ecosystem, and thus to our core national security interests. We must not walk away from globally harmonized bands and cede the supply chain to China. Rather, we must undertake immediate steps to maintain U.S. leadership in spectrum policy to secure the technology future,” said Clete Johnson, a senior telecommunications fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Read Senator Cantwell’s remarks and watch the videos here.