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FCC's new 5G push could mean faster phones, rural broadband and more money for the US


You still hear about 5G but you may not know why?

It was in the news again Monday. Federal Communications Commission President Ajit Pai said he is advocating a public auction of airwaves currently used by satellite companies (the so-called C-band spectrum) for the new fifth generation wireless networks or 5G that you have heard so much about.

Pai & # 39; s timing just coincided with the announcement of a bill from Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss) and Senator John Thune (R-SD) that required the FCC to "conduct a public auction of C-band spectrum." It also requires the auction to start before December 31, 2020.


So what does this mean?

According to chip maker Qualcomm, 5G will "raise the mobile network to not only connect people, but also connect and control machines, objects and devices. It will deliver new levels of performance and efficiency that will provide new user experiences and connect new industries."

Or as Verizon tells on its website: "It is expected to be one of the fastest wireless technologies ever created."

But it's not just about speed. The rural areas – currently underserved in the broadband market – could see new funding opportunities from a public 5G auction that Pai recently described.


Expanded and faster broadband is something everyone wants, not everyone wants to rush to these auctions, like the satellite companies because billions of dollars are at stake. They do not own the "spectrum" they have just used it for the past four decades or use it to "broadcast programming to 120 million American homes," according to C-Band Alliance, a consortium of satellite companies that includes Intelsat and SES. This group claims that the FCC lacks the authority to take over and run an auction without compensating them.

AT&T, which owns satellite service, DirecTV and is the country's largest mobile phone provider, does not agree. "As we said before, every way forward must chart a course for a fair, open and transparent auction; compensation to C-Band licensees for waiving rights and moving services; revenue for the US Treasury and a clear and reasonable transition plan which assures broadcasters, programmers and ground station operators that their services will not be interrupted and that their relocation costs will be reimbursed, "said Joan Marsh, AT&T's President and CEO of Regulatory & State External Affairs in a statement.

A public auction run by the FCC could translate into more money for the government. Any revenue would go directly to the US Treasury. In the last 25 years, the FCC has conducted 93 auctions with a net $ 116 billion for the Treasury. The C-Band alliance has said it would not leave the US Treasury empty-handed if it was allowed to keep the auction private. An official estimated it could be up to $ 8 billion.

Sen. Kennedy John Kennedy (R-La.) Who led the charge to press the FCC to press for a public auction. In a recent speech on the Senate floor, Kennedy said he encourages the FCC "to hold a public auction, take some of the $ 60 billion they will receive and use it for rural broadband to ensure that the people living in the countryside are taken care of as well as the people living in the cities. "

Kennedy also claims that 5G is a matter of nationalism and national security. Given that some of the satellite companies are headquartered outside the US. Intelsat, for example, is based in Luxembourg, Kennedy said "Our job is not to maximize profits for foreign companies. Our job is to help our people and this 5G has implications for national security. Before we give away these 5G airwaves to a foreign company, we have to know who to give it to. What if they give it to China? "


Competition with China is a concern on the 5G front. A Deloitte report from 2018 says that China has surpassed the US by about $ 24 billion in 5G wireless infrastructure since 2015.


FCI's Pai has warned that China's spending – and lead – on the 5G front could lead to the creation of "two different internet sites" that Pai added will "be something that is unfortunate for consumers and something that is potentially dangerous in the long run . "

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