Friday, 13 July 2018 10:47

FCC chairman talks up 5G, announces US spectrum auctions

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At his Medium blog, FCC chairman Ajit Pai has announced the first of several 5G auctions in the US to bring forth millimetre-wave spectrum for mobile broadband, and more.

Pai has written about his and the FCC's plans for 5G at his blog over at Medium, which you can read here.

He notes having been in meetings with his "foreign counterparts at the International Telecommunication Union’s Global Symposium for Regulators in Geneva, Switzerland," where "as part of a panel discussion, [he] delivered remarks about the FCC’s strategy for seizing the opportunities and managing the challenges created by emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning".

He notes speaking "about how connectivity can help deliver on the promise of these technologies — and how the FCC is prioritising top drivers of connectivity like flexible-use spectrum and light-touch regulation of infrastructure".

Stating it was a timely discussion, Pai notes that his August agenda back in the US "will be 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity".

He say the FCC will "finalise the rules for the auction of airwaves in the 28 GHz band and the auction of the 24 GHz band, which will follow immediately afterward".

"One of the game-changers for 5G is that new technologies have made it possible to use millimeter-wave spectrum for mobile broadband. With so many wanting so much spectrum for 5G", Pai says, the FCC is "moving as quickly as possible to make these bands available for commercial use. Adopting these rules will pave the way for auctioning these 5G-critical airwaves and allow us to start the bidding on 14 November".

Pai continues stating that "these will be the first auctions of high-band spectrum for 5G services, but they won’t be the last", and that he's specifically "excited to announce my plan to move forward with a single auction of three more millimeter-wave spectrum bands  —  the 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands  —  in the second half of 2019".

Indeed, "to help facilitate that auction on this timeline", Pai is "proposing rules to clean up the 39 GHz band and move incumbents into rationalised licence holdings".

"This will help make the 39 GHz band as attractive as possible for new bidders, while consolidating incumbent spectrum licenses into more usable blocks", and "as part of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" the FCC considers at its August meeting, Pai is "also proposing to have 100 MHz licence blocks for the 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands, so they can more easily be auctioned together. These are important steps that will help solidify US leadership in 5G".

Pai also wants to make "network deployment  —  and in particular the smaller, denser infrastructure of 5G networks  —  easier", noting that one of his "first acts as chairman was to create the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee to develop expert recommendations on removing barriers that raise the costs and slow the buildout of communications infrastructure".

He wants a "single construction crew" to make access to and working on "utility poles" faster and easier, and he says that "by making it quicker and cheaper to attach to poles, we can accelerate network buildout and make it easier for new entrants to provide more broadband competition".

Pai has "circulated an order that would adopt this so-called “one-touch-make-ready” policy while at the same time ensuring that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect existing attachments and worker safety".

Pai also wants to "close America’s digital divide", saying "one of the reasons we want every American to have access to high-speed Internet connectivity is because of its potential to improve healthcare".

We've heard similar things in Australia for years, and clearly it is no different in the US. Pai talks of "a movement in telehealth towards connected care everywhere", stating that "whether it’s via remote patient monitoring or mobile health apps, patients can see improved outcomes and lower costs through care that can be delivered directly to them regardless of where they’re physically located", so Pai has instructed the FCC to "explore ways the Commission can promote connected care everywhere".

Incredibly, this hasn't yet been formalised, which will apparently happen at the FCC's "August meeting, where we’ll be considering a Notice of Inquiry that would seek comment on a Universal Service Fund pilot program to support the delivery of telehealth services to low-income Americans, with a focus on services delivered beyond brick-and-mortar healthcare facilities".

More information can be read at Pai's Medium blog post here, and here at this USA Today report.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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