US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai (pictured) came out firmly against the prospect of a government-run 5G network, calling the idea a “costly and counterproductive distraction”.
In a statement, Pai insisted “the market, not government, is best positioned to drive innovation and investment”. He added the government should focus instead on making more spectrum available and setting rules encouraging development and deployment of next generation networks.
Pai’s comments followed a report President Trump’s administration is weighing a plan to build a centralised 5G network within the next three years to fend off growing competition from China.
In a research note, BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk noted such a plan could prove to be a job creator for the construction industry and could benefit companies including American Tower, Crown Castle, CommScope, Dycom, Zayo and Corning. But he also pointed to significant hurdles the government would face, including the time it takes to free up and deploy new spectrum, restrictions on the location of cell sites and availability of labour.
Industry association USTelecom blasted the plan, noting in a statement a government attempt to take over construction of 5G networks would “slam the brakes” on the country’s “hard-won momentum” to be a leader in 5G. CTIA CEO Meredith Attwell Baker echoed Pai’s sentiment the government should pursue “free market policies”.
An AT&T representative told Mobile World Live the operator couldn’t comment on a plan it hasn’t seen, but said work to launch 5G service in the country “is already well down the road,” and the operator is in no doubt “America will lead the 5G revolution.”