FCC’s Wheeler names 5G as “national priority” for US - Mobile World Live

FCC’s Wheeler names 5G as “national priority” for US

21 JUN 2016

Tom Wheeler aims to give the US leadership in developing 5G with a proposal this week that will identify and open up “vast amounts” of suitable spectrum.

Under the Spectrum Frontiers banner, the intention is to give the US a headstart in creating applications for 5G. The five commissioners will vote on the proposal on 14 July.

“If the Commission approves my proposal next month, the United States will be the first country in the world to open up high-band spectrum for 5G networks and applications. And that’s damn important because it means US companies will be first out of the gate,” said Wheeler.

The FCC head was speaking at the National Press Club in Washington DC.

“We will be repeating the proven formula that made the United States the world leader in 4G. It’s a simple formula: Lead the world in spectrum availability, encourage and protect innovation-driving competition, and stay out of the way of technological development,” continued Wheeler.

He also had a dig at other countries, without naming them, which choose to take time in defining applications first, and then allocating spectrum afterwards. “The future has a way of inventing itself,” he warned.

And he was defiant about the current standards setting process. “We won’t wait for standards to be first developed in the sometimes arduous, standards-setting process or in a government-led activity,” argued Wheeler.

Instead the FCC will make spectrum available, and leave the private sector to get on with it.

“Leadership in networks leads to leadership in uses, which quickly moves across borders. A result of this national leadership is the creation of a homefield advantage, similar to what we experienced with 4G,” he added.

He then took a little off the edge of a US-first speech with a more internationalist comment: “I would also emphasise that the development of 5G is not anything like an international zero-sum game. Rather, it is a contest in which every one can win.”

“Our success and that of others, redounds to the benefit – literally – of everyone in the world,” said Wheeler.

Verizon and AT&T aim to begin 5G trials in 2017, which will “inform the standards process by putting stakes in the ground,” he said. First commercial deployments at scale are expected in 2020.

Despite his bullishness, Wheeler did not specify the exact spectrum allocation (presumably that comes on Thursday), but did say the commission is looking at blocks of radio frequencies at least 200 MHz in width for 5G.

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Richard Handford

Richard is the editor of Mobile World Live’s money channel and a contributor to the daily news service. He is an experienced technology and business journalist who previously worked as a freelancer for many publications over the last decade including...

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