FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has suggested that US leadership in 5G technology is a national imperative for economic growth and competitiveness, outlining measures the agency is taking to make sure the US continues to lead in 5G. Speaking at the White House 5G Summit, Pai also outlined his 5G FAST (Facilitate America’s Superiority in 5G Technology) Plan, which he said was “critical” to advancing 5G.
He said that the technological advancements of 5G would open the door to new services and applications that will grow the US economy and improve its standard of living.
“So point one: We need to seize the opportunities of 5G. Point two: Time is of the essence. We are not alone in our pursuit of 5G. The US is in the lead, thanks to our private sector as well as the work of the FCC, this Administration, and Congress. But China, South Korea, and many other countries are eager to claim this mantle,” he noted, adding that having seen the US’s success in 4G, other countries were jockeying for 5G leadership. “For the first-mover will be able to attract investment, talent, innovation—and ultimately results. We want and expect that to be the United States. The story of 4G holds another lesson for us. US success in 4G was driven primarily by the ingenuity and investment of our private sector, but the government’s market-friendly policies were critical to setting the stage,” he claimed.
The 5G FAST plan— includes three key solutions: freeing up spectrum, promoting wireless infrastructure, and modernising regulations.
In terms of spectrum, Pai said that he FCC had been “extremely aggressive” in making more airwaves available for the commercial marketplace. We’ve conducted the world’s first incentive auction in which spectrum once used by TV broadcasters was sold to wireless companies in order to expand bandwidth and coverage for consumers. We’ve scheduled America’s first two high-band 5G spectrum auctions to begin later this year. We’re on track to auction off three more bands next year. We’re exploring how to repurpose mid-band spectrum for new wireless applications, from rural broadband coverage to the next generation of Wi-Fi. And we’re working hard with other federal agencies to free up spectrum currently held by the federal government (which for some time has held a majority of lower-band airwaves),” he advised.
He claimed the auctions would not only deliver more wireless services to more consumers but also raise billions of dollars in non-tax revenue, adding that the FCC was aiming to free up more spectrum than is currently held by every mobile broadband provider combined.
He described infrastructure as “vital” to 5G. “All the spectrum in the world won’t make a difference if we don’t have the physical infrastructure to carry 5G traffic. That’s going to be a challenge. For the 5G networks of the future will look very different from the 4G networks we know today. Today, we see 200-foot cell towers intermittently dotting the landscape. But tomorrow’s 5G networks will rely more heavily on ‘small cells’ more inconspicuous equipment, perhaps no larger than a backpack, more densely deployed and operating at much lower power (the closer an antenna is to a phone, the less power is required to connect the two). We’ll need an estimated 800,000 new cell sites by 2025. For perspective, we have barely a quarter of those today. We’ll also need a lot more fibre optic lines to connect all these small cells to the networks’ core,” he advised.
“But we will not have the hundreds of thousands of small cells and miles of fibre needed for 5G unless we have a regulatory approval process that encourages deployment,” he warned. “We cannot let today’s red tape strangle the 5G future. That’s why the FCC has reformed its wireless infrastructure rules, and why we’ll keep doing so.”
In terms of modernising regulations, Pai said the FCC is revising or repealing outdated rules to promote investment in the wired backbone of 5G networks. “For instance, when I became Chairman, FCC regulations made it too hard for carriers to transition from the fading copper networks of the past to the fibre networks of tomorrow. So we’ve updated those rules to help companies focus on fibre deployment. We’re also making it cheaper and easier to string fibre lines on utility poles with one-touch make ready, which is critical for carrying 5G traffic to and from small cells,” he said.
“Speaking of replacing outdated regulations, we also overturned the Obama Administration’s decision to heavily regulate the Internet like a slow-moving utility under rules developed in the 1930s. We’ve replaced it with a consistent national policy for broadband providers that protects the free and open Internet and encourages infrastructure investment,” he claimed.