A Department of Defense official said today that his agency does not want to "compete with commercial industry" in its exploration of ways it could deploy 5G networks for its domestic operations.
Fred Moorefield, DoD's deputy chief information officer-command, control, and communications, said during an online event this afternoon organized by the Federal Communications Bar Association’s wireless telecommunications committee that a request for information issued last month (TR Daily, Sept. 18) "seeks to change the game in how we do spectrum management—moving toward more spectrum sharing."
The RFI "has been viewed by some that DoD is looking to … compete with commercial industry. This is clearly a misreading and misrepresentation of the RFI. The purpose of the RFI is to seek information on innovative solutions and alternative approaches to enable dynamic spectrum sharing within the department’s currently allocated spectrum," Mr. Moorefield added.
"We are truly trying to understand the art of the possible," he said. He added that "any subsequent RFP is TBD at this time." There has been speculation that DoD plans to issue a request for proposals very soon.
Mr. Moorefield also said that DoD plans to release the comments it receives in response to the RFI, adding that those comments will also inform its spectrum pilot projects.
DoD’s RFI focuses on sharing spectrum while asking "[h]ow could DoD own and operate 5G networks for its domestic operations? What are the potential issues with DoD owning and operating independent networks for its 5G operations?"
The RFI has drawn criticism from members of Congress of both parties and industry entities.
In a letter released today, seven industry groups urged the Trump administration not to move to deploy a nationalized 5G network, expressing concern about DoD’s RFI.
"We write today to urge your administration to oppose any effort to nationalize our country’s growing 5G network infrastructure through Federal entry into the commercial market as currently contemplated by the Department of Defense," CTIA, the Competitive Carriers Association, NCTA, NTCA, USTelecom, the Wireless Infrastructure Association, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association said in the letter to President Trump dated Friday. "Such an action would be at odds with more than a century of private sector led innovation and investment in communications networks, have a chilling effect on the entire broadband sector, and jeopardize American leadership in the global digital economy."
The letter continued, "Whether it is access to spectrum, fiber backhaul infrastructure, antennas and radios, or any other elements necessary to power resilient, secure and fast 5G networks—we will always be better off with private innovation and competition. That is the American way and why the United States is the undisputed global leader in communications. Collectively, broadband providers, including those represented by the undersigned organizations, have invested trillions in private capital to build resilient, competitive and efficient networks that power our innovation economy and ensure millions of Americans benefit from broadband connectivity. The diversity of technologies and providers that make up our networks—fixed, wired, and wireless—provides unique services while promoting sustainable and secure connections. The results of smart policies incentivizing market competition and private investment for American consumers and government agencies is clear: our networks continue to outperform foreign networks throughout the COVID pandemic."
The groups added, "While centrally planned infrastructure and nationalized networks have struggled with congestion and poor service, American providers have met and exceeded the increased usage demands during COVID-19 while continuing to invest billions at a time when our economy needs it most. Even as our networks continue to perform admirably, with extra capacity to accommodate traffic demands, COVID-19 has emphasized the need to close the digital divide. Nationalized infrastructure will only create additional obstacles and challenges as we work to connect all Americans, including those who are hardest to reach, with high-speed Internet service. It would also unnecessarily expose our infrastructure to greater security risks. Policies supporting privately-led innovation rather than government controls and mandates are a time-tested model for American success and prosperity and will continue to spur the nation’s connectivity providers to make important investments in the core infrastructure to deliver 5G connectivity. We need to ensure that a competitive, free market remains and supports the private-sector deployment of 5G networks to ensure American networks continue to be the gold standard worldwide."
In his speech at the Republican National Convention, President Trump said that "[w]e will win the race to 5G and build the world’s best cyber and missile defense—already under construction" (TR Daily, Aug. 28). His campaign has vowed that in the president’s second term, the administration would establish a national wireless broadband network (TR Daily, Aug. 25). —Paul Kirby, [email protected]
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