TR Daily Industry, Policymakers Cite 5G Spectrum, Infrastructure Needs
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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Industry, Policymakers Cite 5G Spectrum, Infrastructure Needs

Wireless industry executives, regulators, and members of Congress today stressed the need for additional spectrum – in low, mid, and high bands – and streamlined infrastructure siting rules to spur the deployment of 5G services.

During CTIA’s Race to 5G Summit this afternoon, speakers touted the potential of 5G services to benefit a wide variety of sectors, including health care, energy, education, manufacturing, and transportation in an Internet of things ecosystem.

But they said that more spectrum is needed and that it must be easier for wireless carriers to deploy small cells needed for 5G services.

Speakers said that infrastructure siting is much easier in other countries such as China, giving them an advantage over the U.S., where they said many states and localities make it too difficult to site small cells.

“5G is a race,” CTIA President and Chief Executive Officer Meredith Attwell Baker declared in opening today’s event. ‘And it’s a global race to 5G. … This is a race we must win, and I’m confident we can win.”

She cited a CTIA-commissioned study that concluded that the U.S. ranks third in 5G readiness behind China and South Korea, with the U.S. particularly lagging in spectrum allocations and infrastructure deployment (TR Daily, April 16). By comparison, China has allocated 2,000 megahertz of spectrum to each of its carriers, she said.

“Policymakers in D.C. need to help us win this race,” Ms. Baker said. She said that U.S. carriers need hundreds of additional MHz of additional spectrum, especially in mid-band frequencies, “and we need new rules for infrastructure at every level of government.”

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr cited steps the FCC has taken or plan to take to free up additional spectrum for wireless carriers for 5G services, including holding auctions of the 28 gigahertz and 24 GHz bands, with the first auction beginning in November.

“At the FCC, we have already assigned more high-band spectrum for 5G than any country in the world — we’re more than four gigahertz ahead of second-place China. And we won’t stop there. We are looking to free up more low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum,” he said in the text of his remarks.

“But our aggressive push to free up spectrum — while necessary to our 5G leadership — is not enough on its own,” Mr. Carr added. “The second part of the equation is to move just as aggressively to modernize and update our infrastructure deployment rules — to ensure that they are what I call ‘5G Ready.’”

On that front, he noted that the FCC has moved to make it easier to deploy small cells by exempting small cells from its environmental and historic review rules for small cells (TR Daily, March 22).

Mr. Carr, who has been tasked by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai with being the point person at the Commission on wireless infrastructure issues, said that ‘our work is not over. Winning the race to 5G will require more than just streamlining our approach to the federal regulatory review process. That’s why the FCC has been looking at the important role that state and local reviews play in facilitating the deployment of next-gen wireless infrastructure. My staff and I are still working through these issues, but I can share a few ideas that we’ve been discussing.

“First, there is no question that states and localities expect and deserve to be compensated for the reasonable costs they incur in managing rights-of-way and access to public infrastructure. But that does not mean we should view each deployment as a revenue generating opportunity. The economic benefits for communities arise once we get our neighborhoods connected to next-gen networks. Our policies should be aimed at promoting those types of deployments,” Mr. Carr said.

“Second, we should ensure that our shot clocks on local reviews continue to serve their intended purposes. We adopted the existing timeframes before the spike in smaller scale facilities we’re seeing today. So we need to make sure that we have the right review periods in place. Obtaining timely decisions is key to the timely deployment of new networks,” the Commissioner added.

“Third, the FCC should provide even more certainty about access to rights-of-way and our views on state and local moratoria. As we do so, we should promote greater parity between the treatment of wireless infrastructure and other uses of rights-of-way,” Mr. Carr said.

David J. Redl, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, cited ongoing work at his agency and other executive branch agencies to find additional bands for wireless carriers.

That includes working with the FCC on the 37 GHz band and other millimeter-wave bands.

“For the mid-band range, NTIA has identified the 3450-3550 MHz band as a candidate for repurposing for commercial services,” he noted, according to the text of his speech. “We still have a lot of work to do to determine how to protect government incumbents — in particular Defense Department radars that are vital for national security.”

He also noted that “pipeline plans” have been approved and funded to study repurposing of the 1300-1350 MHz and 1675-1680 MHz bands.

“NTIA is committed to developing and implementing novel spectrum management approaches,” Mr. Redl added. “We’re happy to see that Congress is interested in novel approaches as well,” he added, noting that the RAY BAUM’S Act, which was recently signed into law as part of the fiscal year 2018 omnibus appropriations bill (TR Daily, March 23), “includes a provision on researching incentives for agencies to relinquish or share spectrum, and it also requires a study of bidirectional sharing.

“As another example, the President’s Budget for FY19 includes a proposal to authorize NTIA to administer leases of federal spectrum to non-federal users,” Mr. Redl added. “This is still very much a proposal at this point, and many details need to be sorted out, but I believe it has great potential. We’d be looking to find ways to incentivize agencies that use spectrum to help us identify bands. Could upgraded technology or capabilities serve as an incentive, or could the agencies become beneficiaries of services provided by the new user of the spectrum? We’d need to sort out how to fund the resources needed to negotiate leases and administer the program, but the idea is to add more tools to the toolbox to help put underutilized spectrum to use, while maximizing the economic value of spectrum and protecting federal spectrum users.”

Mr. Redl also said that the Trump administration “has prioritized efforts to modernize federal processes for permitting and review of major infrastructure projects – to spur investment, speed construction and decrease costs.”

Ms. Baker discussed 5G deployment with Rep. Susan Brooks (R., Ind.), who is co-chair of the 5G Caucus and cosponsor of the AIRWAVES Act (HR 4953 and S 1682), which is designed to free up more licensed and unlicensed spectrum for 5G services, including millimeter-wave mid-bands and bands under 3 GHz (TR Daily, Feb. 7). Among other things, the legislation would require that 10% of proceeds from auctions be reserved for wireless infrastructure deployment in underserved or unserved areas.

“We need to recast AIRWAVES as a rural broadband bill,” Ms. Baker said.

“I know this is a top priority for Greg Walden so we’re going to get this done,” said Rep. Brooks, referring to the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Ms. Baker praised the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis for actions it has taken to encourage the deployment of small cells needed for 5G, noting that the state has passed small cell reform and the city has also moved to encourage deployment.

Rep. Brooks encouraged the wireless industry to continue to explain the benefits that 5G services will bring to communities, especially luring and retaining jobs.

“We have to keep educating … local city council members, keep educating state legislators,” she said. “We still have, I think, a long way to go.” She added of policy-makers, “We’ve got to get out of your way.”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R., Colo.), who introduced the AIRWAVES Act in the Senate with Sen. Maggie Hassan (D., N.H.) (TR Daily, Aug. 1, 2017), stressed the importance of Congress passing his bill for the U.S. to lead the world in 5G deployment.

“We know there are other countries who aren’t waiting for Congress,” he said. “We have to make sure we have permit reforms in place,” he added. “Something that takes an hour to install shouldn’t take a year to approve.”

He also stressed the potential benefits to rural areas of the 10% dividend of auction proceeds.

The senator told reporters after his remarks that he is working to get a hearing on his bill. “We’re laying the groundwork for it,” he said. While he said he has no commitment for a hearing, “we’ll get one.”

“It’s getting very late,” he acknowledged in response to a question about the Senate’s schedule in an election year. “That’s why we have to act now.”

In her remarks, Sen. Hassan told the audience of the potential benefits of 5G to rural areas, including in helping tackle the opioid epidemic through telemedicine, patient monitoring, advanced medical records, and improved first responder communications.

She said that she is concerned that China and South Korea are leading the U.S. on the 5G front, but said she has confidence that “we will close the gap.” The wireless industry, she stressed, must help lawmakers get “focused” on taking actions to help spur 5G deployment. “We really need to seize this moment,” she said.

Tim Baxter, president and CEO of Samsung Electronics North America, said his company has identified about 100 consumer 5G use cases, but he cautioned that they won’t all be ready on “Day 1.”

He also said that “the enterprise applications, I think, are going to be limitless,” with more enterprise applications at the beginning of 5G deployment than consumer ones.

And at a time when the U.S. government has taken aim at Chinese equipment companies such as China-based Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and ZTE Corp. Mr. Baxter emphasized that a “trusted supply chain … couldn’t be more important” in the deployment of 5G networks.

Mr. Baxter also noted that Samsung is working on 5G trials with all of the carriers that are doing them, and he pointed out that the first 5G 28 GHz band base station certified by the FCC was a Samsung device.

But, like others at today’s event, Mr. Baxter stressed the importance of public policy action, specifically the allocation of additional spectrum in the millimeter-wave and mid-bands and streamlining of siting rules.

Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm, Inc., predicted that 5G smartphones will be ready “as soon as the networks are ready,” which he said likely will be in early 2019. However, he said perhaps the first device will be out at the end of this year.

As for 5G transmission speeds in trials, he cited a median browsing speed of 490 megabits per second in one trial of 3.5 GHz band spectrum, and 1.4 gigabits per second using the 28 GHz band in another. “We are not going to lose this 5G race,” he said.

Mike Murphy, chief technology officer in North America for Nokia, said U.S. wireless carriers need a minimum of 100 MHz each in 3.7-4.2 GHz C-band to deploy 5G services. He also urged U.S. action on siting, saying infrastructure can be deployed more quickly in China and South Korea. There should be standardized processes and costs for deploying small cells, Mr. Murphy suggested.

John Saw, CTO of Sprint Corp., echoed the points of others on siting disadvantages for U.S. carriers. “It takes weeks to get a permit in some countries such as China,” he said. He commended the FCC for streamlining its environmental review and historic preservation rules for small cells, saying it will allow small cells to be deployed more cheaply and quickly. But he said that the government also must streamline infrastructure siting on federal lands and on public structures. The FCC must also address local fees for small cells, saying that “market-based pricing” supported by localities is not reasonable. Sprint plans to unveil “5G-like capabilities” in six cities this year, including Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles.

He said Sprint plans to leverage its 2.5 GHz band spectrum, using half for LTE and half for 5G. He said it plans to be able to have a 5G footprint that is the same as its 4G footprint.

Marachel Knight, senior vice president-technology planning & engineering for AT&T, Inc., noted that her carrier plans to deploy 5G services to 12 cities by the end of the year, including in Dallas and Waco, Texas and Atlanta. She stressed the need that carriers have to rights of way, and she said that in addition to the 24 GHz and 28 GHz bands, the FCC should move to auction the 37 and 39 GHz bands. And she said it also should act to make mid-band spectrum available and additional low-band frequencies.

Ed Chan, SVP-technology strategy & planning for Verizon Communications, Inc., which plans to begin deploying residential fixed 5G services this year, also emphasized the need of wireless carriers for additional mid-band spectrum.

“We need spectrum across all bands,” said Karri Kuoppamaki, vice president-network technology development & strategy for T-Mobile US, Inc. noting that his company wants the FCC to free up more millimeter-wave bands later this year, citing, in particular, the “pretty limited opportunities” in the 28 GHz band. The carrier plans to begin building out 5G in 30 cities this year, have 5G smartphones on systems in 2019, and have nationwide service in 2020. Mr. Kuoppamaki also suggested that the FCC’s release of a calendar for the release of spectrum would be useful, saying that parties could comment on it.

During a panel discussion following the individual presentations of the carrier officials, they were asked if they thought a compromise could be reached concerning the geographic licensing areas for priority access licenses (PALs) in the 3.5 GHz band.

They didn’t answer the question directly, but some suggested that the use of small licensing areas would make it more difficult to use the spectrum. Mr. Kuoppamaki made this point, while saying that a solution had to work “for everyone.” Mr. Saw said it would be useful to have a global standard for use of the band.

Mr. Saw also praised the circulation today of a draft notice of proposed rulemaking designed to free up unused educational broadband service (EBS) spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band (see separate story). “It gives us an opportunity to build out those rural areas,” he said.

The executives also emphasized the need to free up chunks of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, and, Mr. Kuoppamaki said, “not just a little bit of it,” but “hopefully the lion’s share.” On streamlining infrastructure deployment, he also said the FCC should look at ways to do this “holistically across the board.” —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

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