LOS ANGELES – FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today said the FCC has made significant progress in clearing the way for the wireless industry to deploy 5G services, both on the spectrum and infrastructure fronts, and he said it would continue to take additional steps.
In keynote remarks this morning at the MWC19 Los Angeles show here, Mr. Pai noted that the Commission plans to hold its third auction of millimeter-wave band spectrum in December, following auctions of licenses in the 28 gigahertz and 24 GHz bands earlier this year, and is ready to auction 3.5 GHz band spectrum next June. He also noted that it hopes to sell licenses to use the 2.5 GHz band next year.
During a question-and-answer session with CTIA President and Chief Executive Officer Meredith Attwell Baker, Mr. Pai also said the FCC is “looking to make progress in the time to come” in its 3.7-4.2 GHz C-band proceeding, where the agency plans to adopt an order this fall, but he did not provide any additional details about how much spectrum he wants freed up in that band or what rules it will consider.
Mr. Pai noted that his 5G Fast Plan is geared to freeing up spectrum for 5G services and streamlining the deployment of wireless infrastructure and fiber for backhaul, and he cited statistics that he said show it is working, including the expectation that 200,000 small cells will be deployed in the U.S. by the end of this year.
“We’re not resting,” he said. “We have a lot more work to do.”
Mr. Pai also mentioned other bands that could provide the necessary spectrum for 5G and other wireless services, including the 6 GHz band, where the FCC is mulling ways to free up channels for unlicensed use without harming incumbent operations. The Chairman cited the possible use of the band for 160-megaherz channels and its utilization for virtual reality.
The Chairman also said he hopes that a framework can be implemented to enable commercial use of the upper 250 MHz of the 3.1-3.55 GHz band.
Mr. Pai also said that he hopes 5G services can have a big impact in rural areas, including with precision agriculture.
Regarding the telecom supply chain, Mr. Pai noted that he and Trump administration officials have met with officials from a number of other countries to stress the importance of a secure supply chain. He said that the U.S. government is “united” on this issue.
“That message has been very well received, in my experience at least,” Mr. Pai said, adding that U.S. officials are “not demanding” that other nations adopt the U.S. view, but just are sharing it. He also said that there is a “false dichotomy” that suggests that carriers have to choose between deploying 5G services and ensuring that networks are secure.
Ms. Baker said U.S. carriers only use “trusted vendors,” but a number of rural carriers have purchased equipment from Chinese vendors such as Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.
On robocalls, Mr. Pai commended the efforts that wireless industry players have taken to eliminate the calls. “We’re making a lot of progress,” he said. Mr. Pai has called on the telecom industry to deploy the SHAKEN/STIR caller ID authentication framework by the end of this year.
During this morning’s keynote session, Ms. Baker and other industry representatives praised actions the FCC has taken to facilitate 5G deployment, including its efforts to streamline the deployment of infrastructure and make more spectrum available. They urged the agency to redouble its efforts – especially on the mid-band front.
“We need a lot of it and we need it fast,” said Kenneth Myers, president and CEO of United States Cellular Corp. and chairman of CTIA, said of mid-band channels. While he welcomed the FCC’s auctioning of millimeter-wave band spectrum, Mr. Myers said mid-band frequencies are needed for coverage purposes.
Officials with GSMA, which organized this week’s show here with CTIA, also emphasized carriers’ need for additional 5G spectrum – as well as regulatory certainty and flexibility.
GSMA Director General Mats Granryd said the industry needs harmonized spectrum, the approval of proposed consolidation, an “even playing field,” and harmonized privacy and data protection rules.
He bemoaned the burden on carriers of “overpriced spectrum auctions,” adding, “Our message to governments nationwide has been simple: Don’t get short-term greedy and kill the long-term Golden Goose.”
He also praised Mr. Pai’s 5G Fast Plan and solicited support for additional 5G spectrum decisions at the upcoming 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference in Egypt.
Mr. Granryd said the industry needs “to see same rules for equivalent digital services” that cover operators and other Internet players.
Stéphane Richard, chairman and CEO of Orange Group plc and chairman of GSMA, said one challenge facing the wireless industry is “the loss of trust in global supply chains.”
He cited “the risk of fragmentation—market fragmentation and technical fragmentation.”
Market fragmentation may happen because of restrictions on the use of certain vendors, he said, and it could lead to increased costs, decreased competition, and a lack of interoperable standards, which could result in technical fragmentation.
Mr. Richard also cited a threat in “a loss of trust in the protection of our digital life.”
“GSMA is strongly engaged on the policy issues to find the right balance between privacy and data protection, innovation and legal interception that are essential to fight against crime and guarantee national security,” he said. “Governments should ensure that legislation is technology-neutral and that” any regulations “are applied consistently to all players in the largest Internet ecosystem,” he added.
In opening remarks at the keynote session, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Los Angeles will be one of the first big cities “to have a full 5G buildout here, and we’ve made this easier for our providers by getting out of the way – cutting red tape,” including concerning the deployment of small cells on street and traffic poles. —Paul Kirby, [email protected]
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