FCC lays out the FAST track to 5G

The FCC has unveiled the grand plan for 5G, outlining the strategy it will put in place to place the US at the top of the technology league table.

Facilitate America’s Superiority in 5G Technology (the 5G FAST plan) strategy takes into account three areas; spectrum, infrastructure policy and modernising outdated regulations. The objective is a simple one to envisage, but more sticky to complete; how can the US ensure it does not lose its leadership position in the technology world to China?

As you can see from the video below, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is clearly excited about ‘claiming the 5G future for America’.

Starting on spectrum, the FCC highlighted it is critical to ensure there is as much available to the telcos as possible. In the high bands, the 28 GHz and 24 GHz bands will be available in auction later this year, while the upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands will hit the lots in 2019. These auctions will release almost five gigahertz of 5G spectrum into the market, while the FCC is attempting to free up another 2.75 gigahertz in the 26 and 42 GHz bands. In the mid-bands, the FCC is working to find more available assets in the 2.5 GHz, 3.5 GHz, and 3.7-4.2 GHz bands. Changes are also on the horizon for the lower-end bands (600 MHz, 800 MHz, and 900 MHz), while unlicensed spectrum is getting some attention for next generation wifi cases.

Looking at the infrastructure policy side of things, the FCC has adopted new procedures to review applications on a federal level, while also forcing local authorities to accept similar rules. Removing red-tape and speeding up the lethargic public sector is not something we will attempt to criticise, though there has been resistance to the new rules at state and county levels, with some suggesting there is too much of a burden on the public offices. It would not surprise anyone to see some form of legal challenge to these rules from a sow-moving coalition of local authorities.

Finally, modernising regulations across the communications industry is likely to be a contentious claim, especially considering some believe the eradication of net neutrality to be a backwards step. The pompously named ‘Restoring Internet Freedom’ act is only one factor here though. Other areas which have received attention include ‘One-Touch Make-Ready’, rules governing the attachment of new network equipment to utility poles, and Business Data Services, an initiative to remove certain rate regulation. The theory here is the less barriers to launch new services, the more incentive to invest in future-proofed fire networks.

While some will certainly object to some of the moves made by the FCC, you can’t argue with the US approach in combatting the leadership threat from China. Various governments around the world have boasted about the desire and critical need to take a leadership role in the digital economy of tomorrow, though few actions support the rhetoric (have a look at most of what the UK government does). The US is not going to let its leadership position in the technology world be taken away easily.

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