FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly suggested today that repurposing all 500 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.7-4.2 gigahertz band for terrestrial 5G services while accommodating current users “seems farfetched – to nearly impossible – given the realities and equities at stake.”
In the text of keynote remarks he delivered at the Brooklyn 5G Summit 2019, Mr. O’Rielly noted various options under consideration, “including the market-based approach that could repurpose 200 megahertz of spectrum relatively quickly while ensuring the incumbents will be accommodated. Hopefully, the satellite incumbents who are willing to surrender their spectrum rights will be able to find a way to increase the amount to be reallocated to 300 or more megahertz, but perfect cannot be allowed to be the enemy of good.
“It seems like some opponents of the market-based approach want all 500 megahertz or at least 500 megahertz in urban areas, while still somehow accommodating the various broadcast and cable operators whose programming is delivered using the spectrum. This seems farfetched – to nearly impossible – given the realities and equities at stake,” Mr. O’Rielly added. “Instead, we must be willing to adopt a plan that gets mid-band spectrum into providers’ hands as soon as possible with the appropriate protections. To facilitate this, the Commission needs to finalize its review and wrap up this proceeding in the next few months. In other words, no more dawdling.”
Mr. O’Rielly also said that he is aware “that the Commission cannot unilaterally dictate the reallocation of spectrum used by federal government agencies. However, we must expect greater attention to this issue and quicker action by these agencies – who are inconveniently parked in prime 5G bands – in order to meet our country’s demand for more commercial spectrum. And, there are steps that can be taken by federal agencies in the near term to rectify the shortfall.
“In particular, I believe that NTIA and DOD must immediately make the 3.45 to 3.55 GHz band available for commercial use. This 100-megahertz block can be combined with spectrum at 3.5 and 3.7 to 4.2 GHz to create the large channel sizes that are required for true 5G services. The original schedule dictated that this spectrum would be made available for commercial use quickly, but NTIA and DOD mistakenly shifted course and opted for an unnecessary feasibility study,” Mr. O’Rielly said. “Anyone who’s been around the federal government long knows that this type of maneuver is designed to circumvent the underlying policy directive. This unnecessary study should be concluded as soon as possible, and these frequencies reallocated for commercial use.
“Moreover, I call on our federal agencies to immediately initiate feasibility studies that are actually needed for the frequencies between 3.1 to 3.45 GHz,” he said. “This spectrum is being used for ‘shipborne, land-based, and aeronautical mobile radar systems.’ While we have a general idea of what they are being used for, the particulars regarding exactly how, where, and what amount of spectrum is being used at any time are outdated, incomplete, and ultimately unhelpful. Perhaps the entire band may not be suitable for commercial use, but studies should be initiated, in this instance, to ensure that this spectrum is being used efficiently and determine whether some, or all, of the 350 megahertz can support commercial use.”
He continued, “As an aside while I am discussing these DOD frequencies, I want to make clear that this spectrum should be repurposed for private sector use, not some sort of public-private or government-owned nationwide wholesale network. Some have suggested that frequencies in this range could be used as part of some convoluted scheme. While many of us were hopeful that the President’s recent comments on the topic would put an end to these efforts, ideas in Washington rarely die, and this one seems to have more lives than the proverbial cat. There are too many reasons why such a proposal is completely flawed, but I will spare you that discussion today and reiterate my strong opposition to any nationalized 5G network.”
Mr. O’Rielly also suggested that the 7.125-8.5 GHz band, “which is primarily used by the government for fixed wireless systems, should also be studied to see if it can accommodate commercial operations. This idea of introducing non-federal uses into this band has been raised by others. Some have asserted, in an FCC proceeding, that it is possible to relocate fixed commercial users currently in the 6 GHz band to these frequencies. Additionally, some international organizations have been promoting this spectrum for globally harmonized mobile use. These are ideas that the U.S. should be exploring and NTIA should be studying.”
He also bemoaned the fact that it seems that the FCC will not be able to commence an auction of 3.5 GHz band priority access licenses (PALs) until the second quarter of 2020, at the earliest, citing another millimeter-wave band sale scheduled to start in December. “Simply put, the Commission must make procedural changes to enable auctions to be held closer together and ideally even simultaneously,” Mr. O’Rielly said. “It cannot take months on end to upscale, reconfigure, and test our software between each auction. This is inexcusable. In the meantime, the Commission must announce the start date for the 3.5 GHz auction so that everyone is at least on notice as to when these mid-band licenses will be available.”
The Commissioner also discussed “the appropriate reaction to foreign providers and nation states who are engaged in attempts to monopolize the development and deployment of 5G. If we accept as a given that a certain communist nation is trying to ensure its dominant global position in 5G, then we collectively need to understand the underlying motives driving this effort, the techniques being used to achieve it, its overall ramifications, and how best to respond.”
He warned that “the close relationship between Chinese companies and the state puts the national security of every rival country at risk. As Chinese equipment becomes more engrained in any given provider’s network and as Chinese providers become more of a fixture in a nation’s communications marketplace, it appears as though the Chinese government has the potential to access information that touches that equipment or is carried on that network. In our modern society, data and Internet networks are the core infrastructure for determining economic, diplomatic, and military might, and therefore are battlefields that will define our future. As a nation, we have an obligation to protect U.S. communications networks from foreign governments bent on accessing them to harm our citizens. Until this threat can be properly contained, we must strongly consider whether Chinese-related service offerings and equipment are unacceptable inputs for our communications networks.”- Paul Kirby, [email protected]
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