Trump administration officials, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, and key lawmakers today stressed the importance of the U.S. winning the race to 5G, saying that making enough spectrum available – especially mid-band frequencies, streamlining the deployment of infrastructure, modernizing regulations, and addressing telecom supply chain security issues were key to ensuring that the goal is reached. Administration officials emphasized that they are committed to ensuring the nation leads the world in 5G deployment, although they and others acknowledged the difficulty of accomplishing that in light of persistent efforts by countries such as China and South Korea.
The officials spoke this morning at a White House 5G Summit that included representatives from multiple federal government agencies; industry, including those from trade groups, wireless and satellite providers, and equipment makers; and think tanks. Also attending were officials from the First Responder Network Authority, which is part of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
The event featured keynote opening remarks by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R., Ore.), Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R., S.D.), National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios, NTIA head David J. Redl; and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
The nearly half-day event then featured four concurrent break-out sessions on 5G spectrum, standards, deployment, and applications.
Republican FCC Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr also attended today’s event, but Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said she was not invited. Mr. O’Rielly participated in the spectrum session, while Mr. Carr participated in the deployment session.
In remarks that appeared largely off the cuff, Mr. Kudlow said the administration is behind the push for 5G. “We want you to take a rip,” he told industry attendees. “We’re calling it America first, 5G first.”
While saying that he’s not an expert on 5G, Mr. Kudlow said, “We need to make this work as expeditiously as we can, as quickly as we can,” adding that the goal was “not just to win the science and technology battle, but also to grow the economy, to power the economy.”
Like other speakers, he cited figures released by CTIA estimating the U.S. economic impact of 5G deployment: the creation of three million jobs, the addition of about $500 billion to the U.S.’s Gross Domestic Product, and wireless industry investment of up to $275 billion.
Again and again, Mr. Kudlow stressed the importance of relying on “the free enterprise, free market economy” to grow the economy. He said wireless technology “powers the economy” and he noted the potential benefits of 5G deployment in health care and other sectors.
“Yes, I hope we beat China, of course, but I’m not here to make war on China,” Mr. Kudlow said.
He also praised the FCC’s action this week to impose fee and other restrictions on states and localities to streamline the deployment of small cells (TR Daily, Sept. 26) and had praise for Mr. Pai, saying, “That guy’s taking a lot of heat, but he’s a free market guy.”
“We all believe in the 10th Amendment, but sometimes you have to override it,” Mr. Kudlow said of the system of federalism. “By the way, the 1996 [Telecommunications Act] permits that kind of override.” He complained of states and localities that “want to shake us down. We cannot allow obstacles and barriers to stop this movement. That’s all.”
The official also urged the industry to deploy more cell towers in Connecticut, where he lives, saying that coverage there leaves a lot to be desired. “It’s ridiculous,” he said.
In his remarks, Mr. Redl noted that the administration is working on a comprehensive national spectrum strategy, but he did not provide any additional details about it. However, he said NTIA plans to meet “in the coming weeks” with a variety of wireless and satellite, unlicensed spectrum, and federal agency stakeholders.
He also stressed the need for “collaboration between government and industry.”
And he noted that NTIA is working “to support industry-led development and refinement of the global standards that already have begun to define how 5G will unfold.”
Mr. Redl also cited “our shared objective to ensure that America’s 5G networks are robust and secure. This is a priority of this administration, linked to the President’s National Security Strategy. We must get this right.”
Mr. Redl also cited efforts to improve wireless broadband coverage data.
He said “we are currently relying too much on the Federal Communications Commission’s Form 477 data, which only tells part of the story. If we want all Americans to have the kind of broadband access needed to compete in the modern world, we need to know the full story. That’s why Congress directed NTIA to improve data associated with the national broadband map. At the beginning of the summer, NTIA asked for comments from the public on ways to increase the quality and accuracy of broadband availability data. We received 53 sets of comments indicating a variety of data sources and approaches that we can use to support these efforts.
“We also met with a number of stakeholders. During these conversations, we heard from associations about how to gain access to data sets and information about where they are deployed. And we heard from companies that create data sets and aggregate this kind of information,” Mr. Redl added.
“Our plan now is to take a phased approach to collecting the data we need to make a broadband availability map that shows the true picture of where we are. We will be working with states that already have collected broadband availability data, or had otherwise strong broadband programs. This will allow us to get the most value for the resources allocated to us by Congress,” Mr. Redl said. “By the end of the year we will be issuing a request for proposals for additional data, and a technology service provider that will help us integrate all of the data sources we can bring together.”
Rep. Walden stressed the importance of the U.S. leading the world in 5G deployment, saying, “Let there be no mistake: the race for 5G is a sprint, it’s not a marathon.”
He said that infrastructure, spectrum, and supply chain risks need to be addressed and noted the enactment in March of the RAY BAUM’S Act, which included the MOBILE NOW Act, whose provisions included those to streamline the deployment of infrastructure on federal property and lands.
He also praised the progress the FCC has made in streamlining deployment and freeing up spectrum under Chairman Pai, and he stressed the importance of coordination between the FCC and the Rural Utilities Service. “We’re really on fire to get this done,” he added.
Mr. Walden also emphasized the importance of low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum, including frequencies used by the federal government. He singled out mid-band channels used by federal agencies, saying that “there’s too much at stake … to allow federal users to sit inefficiently on spectrum when other countries are freeing up their mid-band resources. So this will be a priority.”
Rep. Walden also said the government must mitigate “risks to the global supply chain of communications and services.”
“There have been alarm bells at all levels of government about potential risk to the supply chain, but some of the proposed solutions can be just as alarming,” he said. “There are some who think we can simply ban vendors from American markets, but the marketplace for hardware and software is global. Without a forward-looking strategy, it will be increasingly difficult for domestic communications providers to … obtain their equipment from trusted vendors. So I’m pleased to report the Energy and Commerce Committee is working toward a bipartisan, long-term solution on supply chain risks. If America is going to win the global race to 5G, then we need to get our supply chain solutions right.”
A committee spokesperson told TR Daily later that “the committee is examining legislation to address supply chain risk.”
Sen. Thune noted that he and Sen. Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii), the ranking member of the communications, technology, innovation, and the Internet subcommittee, have introduced the Streamlining The Rapid Evolution And Modernization of Leading-edge Infrastructure Necessary to Enhance Small Cell Deployment Act (or STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act) (S 3157) (TR Daily, June 28). He also praised the small cell order adopted the Commission this week.
The lawmaker also noted enactment of provisions of the MOBILE NOW Act, including the requirement that 255 megahertz of spectrum for fixed and mobile uses be identified by 2022, and he said “the United States is falling behind when it comes to mid-band spectrum.”
The senator also said that China and South Korea represent “a serious threat to American leadership” in 5G deployment.
In his remarks, Mr. Pai said the FCC is calling its 5G plan the Facilitate America’s Superiority in 5G Technology, or the 5G FAST Plan.
“The plan includes three key solutions: freeing up spectrum, promoting wireless infrastructure, and modernizing regulations,” he said. He noted steps the Commission has taken in each area, with efforts to modernize outdated regulations including its restoring Internet freedom order, its one-touch make-ready rules, and its IP transition efforts.
“The steps we’re taking under the 5G FAST plan are critical to advancing 5G. But for the U.S. to set the pace, we’ll all need to do our part,” Mr. Pai said. “Today’s gathering is evidence that leaders across the Administration are committed to tackling this challenge. I look forward to working with all of you to lead the world in 5G, to grow our economy, and to deliver digital opportunity to the American people.”
Several industry representatives who attended today’s event praised it.
“The Summit demonstrated the White House is galvanizing the unified leadership of the Administration, the FCC and Congress to aggressively accelerate 5G deployment. It was abundantly clear that all of the agencies are rowing in the same direction to ensure that the U.S. leads the world in 5G. I’m … especially thrilled by the focus on infrastructure, which was widely recognized as the building block of 5G,” said Jonathan Adelstein, president and chief executive officer of the Wireless Infrastructure Association.
“I am thrilled by today’s joint commitment from Congress, the White House, the Federal Communications Commission, and the several executive departments to supporting efforts for our 5G future …,” said Competitive Carriers Association President and CEO Steve Berry. “This effort particularly requires finding new spectrum management approaches to ignite network advancements and support the business case for deployment, particularly in rural areas. That includes streamlining federal permitting, leveraging federal assets for deployment, and funding broadband based on reliable data. Additionally, the 5G Summit was particularly timely in light of the FCC’s adoption of a Declaratory Ruling and Third Report and Order this past Wednesday, which seeks to streamline siting barriers at the state and local levels. There is a lot of excitement about what these smart policies mean for the connected future of consumers living in rural and urban corners of the country. Today’s summit gave us further encouragement about the future of 5G in America and ways to better ‘Keep Up With Your Gs!’.”
“U.S. Cellular was pleased to participate in today’s meeting at the White House. We were encouraged by today’s discussion on the importance of clearing significant amounts of Mid-Band spectrum and the recognition of its importance to 5G deployment in rural areas. We look forward to a continuing dialogue with the Administration, Congress and the FCC,” said Grant Spellmeyer, the carrier’s vice president-federal affairs & public policy.
“There is no doubt that the pace at which we innovate and deliver new products will be fueled by how quickly we deploy and implement 5G technology,” said Dean Garfield, president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council. “The next generation of wireless technology will be more than a faster smartphone – it will be precision agriculture that will help farmers harvest crops, telemedicine apps that keep people healthier, and augmented reality devices that transform the way we interact with each other and do business. But we will only get there with 5G. We thank the White House for today’s convening with industry, government and academia leaders, which we hope will spur better policy outcomes and quicker deployment of this crucial and vital technology to all Americans.”
“We completely agree with the Administration, the FCC, the NTIA and congressional leaders that free market American leadership in 5G is vital for our economy, private investment and future innovation, said Meredith Attwell Baker, president and CEO of CTIA, which had representatives at today’s event, although not Ms. Baker. “And it was especially noteworthy that today’s event focused so much on the need to free up more mid-band spectrum for commercial wireless use to help meet this goal and to keep up with skyrocketing consumer demand for mobile data. We look forward to continuing this important dialogue with the Administration and policymakers to make 5G a reality.”- Paul Kirby, [email protected]
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