On Wednesday, the agency voted 3-2 to auction spectrum in the 2.5GHz band. This sliver of airwaves, known as the Educational Broadband Service, had been set aside for educational purposes during the 1960s. License holders had to be either educational institutions or nonprofits supporting education. These entities, which have gotten access to the spectrum for free, can lease the spectrum to wireless carriers. Sprint uses leased spectrum in the 2.5GHz band for its existing 4G network and these leases are a key reason why T-Mobile proposed spending $26 billion to buy the company, so it could use this so-called midband spectrum to build a 5G service.
The FCC voted to change the rules for the spectrum and is planning to auction unused or underused spectrum in the band directly to wireless carriers. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called the vote “a major step toward freeing up critical midband spectrum for 5G.”
— A whopping eight witnesses, including representatives for the FCC, NTIA and other officials involved in the fight over prime 5G airwaves known as the C-band, are set to testify this morning before the House Energy and Commerce telecom subcommittee. (Read all their written testimony here). A reminder: Satellite companies, which currently occupy the C-band, want the FCC to let them sell the spectrum privately, while Google, cable and wireless players, as well as some on Capitol Hill, are pushing for an FCC-run auction that they argue would provide more public interest benefits.
— We’re watching for what subcommittee chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) says about his new spectrum draft bill now circulating among industry players. “The goal is to free up spectrum for the wireless industry, so we can deploy 5G,” Doyle told John, adding that lawmakers need to ensure “the money from that spectrum benefits American taxpayers and becomes a source of funding for broadband deployment in rural and underserved areas.” [Emphasis Added]
Tom Wheeler a former FCC Commission Chairman has a long discussion of the 5G issues and related technologies at Brookings. His paper is adapted from a presentation made at the request of the Government Accountability Office.
Download paper HERE. Read this paper and you will up to speed on the top 5G issues.
Last week, the House Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Infrastructure held a hearing on broadband mapping data in rural areas. The subcommittee listened to testimony from a panel of rural broadband carriers on how broadband mapping data can be improved. As RCRC has reported in the past, accurate broadband mapping data is essential to closing the digital divide between urban and rural America. While the federal government continues to increase public investment in rural broadband deployment, accurate data is required to determine where funding should be prioritized.
In addition, rural carriers attempting to provide coverage for underserved areas are receiving misinformation on which areas are truly underserved. “As long as broadband maps remain unreliable and riddled with erroneous, overly broad coverage claims, we will not be able to maximize our efforts to reach all unserved areas or to sustain services in areas where funding is needed to do so,” said Beth Osler, Director of Customer and Industry Relations at UniTel, a local carrier from rural Maine. Dan Stelpflug, Director of Operation at the Engineering and Technology at Allamakee Clayton Electric Cooperative in Potsville Iowa, identified a separate issue with rural carriers. Stelpflug pointed out rural carriers are not adequately staffed to identify and apply for federal grants administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Rural carriers also lack the staff to meet the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) reporting requirements for projects funded by federal dollars.
Local and rural carriers are critical in closing the digital divide because they often served areas that are most underserved and most undesirable to nationwide carriers. In recent years, the federal government has committed more assistance to deliver high-speed broadband coverage to rural areas but the FCC needs to improve its broadband mapping data and engage further with rural carriers.
Geoffrey Starks, FCC Commissioner at NextGov.com
With an estimated 2.5 billion plus gigabytes of data created every day, people, businesses, governments and organizations of every kind are generating and accessing more information than ever before. This information avalanche creates challenges and opportunities. For example, good data put to good use is revolutionizing healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing, and retail. But bad data poorly analyzed can be catastrophic for policymaking. It’s time for the FCC to step into the future by using artificial intelligence tools to address the continuing lack of affordable broadband to many communities—an increasingly entrenched problem of “internet inequality,” which impacts our economy and democracy and threatens the future global competitiveness of our country.
Congress has charged the Federal Communications Commission with ensuring that every American has access to affordable high-speed internet service. To do so, we must review massive amounts of internet service provider data so we know where broadband is and is not deployed. This allows us to target federal dollars and drive further deployment as efficiently as possible. There is a lot of money at stake. The FCC’s broadband support programs distribute over $9 billion dollars annually. Achieving an accurate understanding of broadband deployment has proven to be challenging for the Commission, which utilizes a process that overstates broadband availability and has failed to catch egregiously flawed data submissions. The FCC’s data is currently not granular or accurate enough to capture the actual number of homes or businesses that truly have connectivity.
“The United States is making choices that will leave rural America behind,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel writes in WIRED.
So far the United States 5G focus has been on mmWave high-band service, which is not a good technology for rural applications.
This means that high-band 5G service is unlikely outside of the most populated urban areas. The sheer volume of antenna facilities needed make this service viable makes it too costly to deploy in rural areas. So if we want to serve everywhere—and not create communities of 5G haves and have-nots—we are going to need a mix of airwaves that provide both coverage and capacity. That means we need mid-band spectrum. For rural America to see competitive 5G in the near future, we cannot count on high-band spectrum to get the job done.
It should be noted the T-Mobile/Sprint strategy is to focus on the low-bands, and AT&T is claiming a multi-band approach, while Verizon is using a high-band mmWave approach.
— Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) are today bringing back their STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act, a measure aimed at speeding up 5G wireless buildout. The proposal drew fierce pushback during the last Congress from local governments that viewed it as federal overreach. Although the two sponsors had suggested they would take those concerns into account, the new version is no different than what they unveiled last summer. “Making 5G technology a reality has been a priority for me since I began serving on the Commerce Committee,” Thune said
Source: POLITICO Morning Tech
This has implication for all rural communities, especially those communities trying to preserve their historical charm. Experience has shown that mmWave 5G needs to have a small cell site on every block, see details HERE and HERE.
Those providers that are using low band (600-800MHz) 5G will be more welcome in rural communities as fewer cell sites are needed, reducing line of site requirements. The downside is low band 5G cannot provide the mind-blowing speeds that mmWave 5G does. Will rural towns, cities, and neighborhoods get to pick their provider and the technology used to provide 5G under the STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act, or do they get whoever shows up? Verizon is using a mmWave strategy, AT&T a mixed approach, while T-Mobile/Sprint is planning to use low band and existing 4G frequencies for their 5G services. More decisions will depend on the spectrum the FCC is offering for 5G services, both mobile and fixed.
This is going to be an ugly fight to keep ugly technology out of rural towns and villages. If I were responsible for 5G implementation, I would be working with designers to develop a classic mini-cell enclosure, to hide the ugly electronics and wire bundles. Your thoughts?