US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai (pictured) set plans to step down on 20 January, clearing the way for President-elect Joe Biden to select a new agency chief.

FCC chairs typically depart voluntarily when the presidency changes hands.

In a statement, Pai said serving on the Commission had been “the honour of a lifetime”. He highlighted FCC’s execution of a “strong and broad agenda” focused on “closing the digital divide; promoting innovation and competition, from 5G on the ground to broadband from space; protecting consumers; and advancing public safety”.

The body had “not shied away from making tough choices”, he argued.

Pai was appointed to the Commission in May 2012, and named chairman by President Donald Trump in January 2017.

Key developments under Pai’s leadership include a controversial repeal of net neutrality in 2017 and approval of the merger of T-Mobile US and Sprint in 2019.

He also oversaw implementation of the FCC’s 5G FAST plan, pushing to streamline infrastructure regulations and make more spectrum available for 5G deployments through auctions covering 3.5GHz, 3.7GHz to 4.2GHz, 37GHz, 39GHz and 47GHz bands.

Pai’s departure could leave Biden with two seats to fill on the five-member Commission, if Trump’s pick to replace outgoing Commissioner Michael O’Rielly is not approved by Congress before the end of his presidency.

Members of Biden’s Democrat party hold a majority of two-to-one among the remaining three Commission members.