Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai revealed plans to hold a mmWave spectrum auction in the US in the fourth quarter, provided the government acts in time to resolve an outstanding financial issue.
On the keynote stage, Pai said the FCC is aiming to hold an auction for 28GHz spectrum in November, which would immediately be followed by a 24GHz auction. But for that to happen, Pai said the US Congress needs to act by 13 May to remedy a wrinkle in how upfront payments from bidders are held.
The law currently requires those funds be held in interest-bearing accounts, but Pai previously said regulatory requirements have dissuaded private institutions from opening such accounts.
He warned: “If we don’t get the problem fixed, our efforts to realise America’s 5G future will be delayed.”
The Commission is also eyeing spectrum between 3.7GHz and 4.2GHz, and Pai said he intends in the coming months to propose next steps to make that band available for terrestrial commercial use.
He added the FCC is working to streamline infrastructure siting laws, noting “all the spectrum we devote to 5G won’t be put to good use if the physical networks to carry 5G traffic are never built”.
As expected, Pai also addressed the regulator’s recent repeal of net neutrality regulations, claiming a return to “light-touch” regulation will spur investment without harming internet freedom.
“We had a free and open internet for two decades before 2015 and we will have a free and open internet going forward,” he stated.
Pai was backed up on the keynote stage by GSMA and Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal, who said the internet has “thrived” with light regulation.
European Commission VP Andrus Ansip conceded US operators likely aren’t dreaming of blocking and throttling, but said Europe will maintain its open internet protections.
“Access to the internet is a basic right. It has to stay open for everybody, with no discrimination.”