Trump calls for US to lead 5G race

Monday 15 April 2019 | 09:22 CET | News
Update: 15 April 2019 | 10:25 CET

US President Trump gave an address on the important of 5G and the role the US wants to take in the emerging technology. The speech came after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and White House unveiled a new USD 20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to extend high-speed broadband to 4 million homes and businesses. The FCC also announced that the country’s third 5G spectrum auction would start on 10 December, selling 3,400 MHz in three different spectrum bands. 

The push aims to give the US the lead in 5G, and to make sure no other country threatens that status. “We cannot allow any other country to out-compete the US in this powerful industry of the future," Trump said. "The race to 5G is a race America must win, and it’s a race, frankly, that our great companies are now involved in. We’ve given them the incentive they need. It’s a race that we will win," he added. 

The US president noted that the push would be private-sector driven and led and that, the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund notwithstanding, "the government doesn’t have to spend lots of money". The White House does intend however to actively free up as much spectrum as possible, and remove regulatory barriers to the build-out of networks.

The White House added that the US was working internationally on telecom security principles to promote a reliable 5G network and supply chain development. 

The speech prompted a number of reactions from market players. Ligado applauded the move to release more spectrum; Verizon approved its "forward-looking" policies for 5G. Consumer Technology Association (CTA) said enabling the private sector to deliver broadband to rural areas will help close the natin's rural-urban digital divide. 

Consumer group Public Knowledge raised some questions about the USD 20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. The group urged Congress to press FCC chairman Ajit Pai for further details, and to work on new funding for rural broadband in accordance with the principles developed by the Broadband Connects America Coalition. 

 “(The) announcement raises many questions. Most importantly, where will this money come from and over how many years? Is the Administration promising to provide new money for rural broadband through existing authority, or is the Administration going to need to ask Congress to provide new money? How will this differ from the Connect America Fund?,” the group said. 

“The Obama Administration began a process of auctioning spectrum for 5G in 2016, and repurposed the existing Universal Service Fund for rural telephone service to create the “Connect America Fund” for rural broadband deployment. Because Chairman Pai eliminated all sources of FCC authority over broadband in the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” in 2017, it is difficult to see how the Administration can do anything but modify the existing Obama-era programs," the group added. 

Public Knowledge said while updating the programmes may prove helpful, they will not do much to change the unfortunate state of rural broadband in the short-term or do much to accelerate 5G deployment without real reform directly addressing new deployment.

[15/04/2019 10:25 - Update: Added remarks from market parties ]

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Categories: Mobile & Wireless
Companies: FCC
Countries: United States
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