NEW REPORT: Economic Value of Unlicensed Spectrum in the U.S. Tops $525 Billion

Today, Dr. Raul Katz, Director of Business Strategy Research at Columbia University’s Center for Tele-Information and President of Telecom Advisory Services, released a brand new economic study, commissioned by WifiForward, that evaluates both the present and future economic value of unlicensed spectrum in the United States.

This study builds on a prior study completed by Dr. Katz in February of 2014 and a subsequent study completed in August of the same year. The research uses updated numbers, improves upon the earlier analyses by considering the economic contribution of a subset of Wi-Fi and other technologies that depend on unlicensed bands while accounting for more recent developments.

The report estimates that the current economic surplus of unlicensed spectrum in the U.S. from a selected set of applications amounts to, at least, $496.13 billion today, while also contributing $29.06 billion to the nation’s GDP (a total value to the economy of $525.19 billion). Looking ahead, the study projects that the total economic value of unlicensed spectrum will only continue to grow over the coming years, reaching a total of $834.48 billion by 2020. Check out these comments from around the industry.

Key findings from Dr. Katz’s study on unlicensed spectrum’s economic impact in 2017 include:

  • Wi-Fi cellular offloading contributed $25.22 billion to the U.S. economy.
  • Consumer use of residential Wi-Fi contributed $258.7 billion to the U.S. economy.
  • Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) contributed $2.87 billion to the U.S. economy.
  • Consumer use of Wi-Fi only tablets contributed $13.56 billion to the U.S. economy.

Also importantly, Dr. Katz notes that the value of unlicensed spectrum will continue to grow, but because of its innovative and flexible properties, some of the use cases, applications and services are not yet known. Over the course of the next three years, the increase in economic growth is expected to be primarily driven on one side by the persistent growth in existing applications and technology, but also by the deployment of 5G networks, which depend on unlicensed spectrum.

Furthermore, the report asks the question of whether there are enough unlicensed spectrum resources to accommodate expected growth, based on the explosive rates of usage we have witnessed over the course of the last several years. Ultimately, if future assignment of unlicensed spectrum is not fulfilled, the study concludes, it is reasonable to assume that massive economic value creation could be jeopardized.

Later today, Dr. Katz will join Wi-Fi Now, the world’s leading Wi-Fi conference and expo, to elaborate on these and other key findings from his new report, during a main stage presentation. WifiForward will convene a discussion in Washington, D.C. on May 24 at 9:30 a.m. ET with Dr. Katz and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioners Mike O’Rielly and Jessica Rosenworcel to further discuss the findings of the report and its implications for effective spectrum policy.

To download the full report, “A 2017 Assessment of the Current and Future Economic Value of Unlicensed Spectrum in the United States,” by Dr. Raul Katz, click here.