After a meeting with key telecom executives, the Trump administration said it wants to help the wireless industry deploy “5G” quickly. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said that 5G support aligns with lower-tax and deregulation policies that encourage private sector growth, adding the U.S. supports an “America-first, 5G-first” approach.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai called the development of 5G technology “a national imperative for economic growth and competitiveness.”
Pai said 5G networks could effectively remove speed and capacity as meaningful constraints on wireless innovation and could be 100 times faster than current networks.
“The lag time between a device’s request for data and the network’s response will be less than one-tenth of what it is today,” he said. “Wireless networks that today support 1,000 connected devices per square kilometer could instead support 1 million” and could eventually lead to capabilities such as remote surgical procedures, he said.
Administration officials said they have high hopes for the technology that has the potential to help create 3 million new jobs, $275 billion in private investment, and $500 billion in new economic growth.
Although other U.S. government agencies like the FCC and the NTIA have long dealt in spectrum and network deployment issues, the White House summit last Friday was the first major signal by the Trump administration that it also wants to play an active role in smoothing regulations for 5G rollouts. The summit collected executives from the wireless industry with officials from the Trump administration—including Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, and Michael Kratsios, deputy U.S. CTO and deputy assistant to the President at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the agency that held the event—along with top House and Senate lawmakers and officials from the FCC and the NTIA.
Officials described the event as an opportunity for White House representatives to listen to wireless industry executives and to learn ways the Trump administration can play a role in 5G.
5G networks will rely on denser arrays of small antennas and the cloud to offer data speeds up to 50 or 100 times faster than current 4G networks and serve as critical infrastructure for a range of industries.
Congress and regulators are also working to free up more wireless spectrum for use by 5G networks and improve other regulations to make it easier to deploy fiber lines, which are critical for 5G traffic from small cells.
In addition to providing vastly greater speed, 5G will allow transportation networks to link connected and self-driving cars, while new wireless sensors will provide real-time health monitoring and other advanced applications.
White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said on Friday the 5G race will be won “principally through the free enterprise, free market economy.”
CTIA, a wireless industry trade group representing Sprint Corp, AT&T Inc, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Intel Corp, said in a statement after the summit, “We completely agree with the administration, the FCC … and congressional leaders that free market American leadership in 5G is vital for our economy, private investment and future innovation.”
The FCC on Wednesday voted to eliminate regulatory barriers to 5G deployment. Pai said the measure would cap fees that cities could charge to install small cells and requires local governments to promptly review applications. According to Pai, 5G networks will need 800,000 cell sites, mostly small cells no bigger than a backpack, or about four times the existing number of sites.
Kudlow said federal law allows the FCC to override localities on this issue. “We’re not here to be completely heavy-handed but sometimes you have to do what you got to do,” he said at the summit.
Rep. Walden noted that the U.S. needs to protect and encourage the supply chain for 5G. Although he did not discuss any specific policies or positions, he did say that “there are some who think we can simply ban vendors from American markets, but the marketplace for hardware and software is global.”
Those comments are particularly noteworthy given that the FCCembarked on a proposal to tacitly block any network operator—big and small—from using Universal Service Funds to purchase equipment from companies that pose a security threat. That proceeding at the FCC is widely seen as an attempt by the U.S. government to block Chinese network equipment vendors Huawei from competing in the market.
Walden did not name Huawei and also did not go into specifics of his position on the topic. No other speakers at the event discussed supply chain issues in their public remarks.
Separately, mid-band spectrum received a notable amount of attention from the likes of Rep. Walden and NTIA’s Redl. Speakers generally argued that a robust 5G marketplace will use a wide range of spectrum, from low-band spectrum to high-band spectrum. Officials and lawmakers acknowledged that the FCC is working to auction high-band spectrum starting in November, but several speakers called on regulators to release more mid-band spectrum for wireless network operators and others.
And Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., also noted that both licensed and unlicensed spectrum should be made available in the marketplace.
After the meeting, CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker said in a statement that “it was especially noteworthy that today’s event focused so much on the need to free up more mid-band spectrum for commercial wireless use to help meet this goal and to keep up with skyrocketing consumer demand for mobile data. We look forward to continuing this important dialogue with the Administration and policymakers to make 5G a reality.”
However, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, sounded a note of caution on Friday. “As a result of our escalating trade war with China, by the end of this year we will have a 25 percent duty on antennas, switches, and routers – the essential network facilities needed for 5G deployment,” she said.