The move to 5G requires significant upgrades and transitions in a number of areas, including spectrum, infrastructure and regulation. The FCC 5G Facilitate America’s Superiority in 5G Technology (FAST) Plan is meant to address these needs.
Other transitions – from 3G to LTE, for instance – introduced new technology that fit neatly into the existing cellular landscape. They offered, in essence, better versions of what already existed. 5G will be a far deeper change.
A key is that 5G is expected to rely to a great extent on high frequency bandwidth. The characteristics of this bandwidth – and the real-time nature of many of the most exciting 5G applications — require the insertion of small cell antennas and related technology between users and the macro towers that have done the job to date. This bandwidth must be allocated and tremendous technical, deployment and regulatory issues must be addressed.
FCC 5G FAST Plan
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai outlined the 5G FAST plan at a 5G summit last week at the White House. The prepared text of his remarks cited an Accenture study that said 5G could lead to 3 million new jobs, $275 billion in private investment and $500 billion in economic growth.
A prize that big, however, will create competition among nations for the leadership role. “[P]oint one: We need to seize the opportunities of 5G,” Pai said. “Point two: Time is of the essence. We are not alone in our pursuit of 5G. The U.S. is in the lead, thanks to our private sector as well as the work of the FCC, this Administration, and Congress. But China, South Korea, and many other countries are eager to claim this mantle.”
Pai went on to outline the 5G FAST plan, which addresses spectrum, infrastructure policy and regulatory reform issues. Details also were offered in a document from the FCC:
The FCC is taking action to make additional spectrum available for 5G services.
- High-band: The FCC has made auctioning high-band, millimeter-wave spectrum a priority. The FCC will hold its first 5G spectrum auctions this year in the 28 GHz and 24 GHz In 2019, the FCC will auction the upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands. With these auctions, the FCC will release almost 5 gigahertz of 5G spectrum into the market—more than all other flexible use bands combined. The commission is also working to free up another 2.75 gigahertz of 5G spectrum in the 26 and 42 GHz bands.
- Mid-band: Mid-band spectrum has become a target for 5G buildout given its balanced coverage and capacity characteristics. With its work on the 2.5 GHz, 3.5 GHz, and 3.7-4.2 GHz bands, the FCC could make up to 844 megahertz available for 5G deployments.
- Low-band: The FCC is acting to improve use of low-band spectrum (useful for wider coverage) for 5G services, with targeted changes to the 600 MHz, 800 MHz, and 900 MHz
- Unlicensed: Recognizing that unlicensed spectrum will be important for 5G, the agency is creating new opportunities for the next generation of Wi-Fi in the 6 GHz and above 95 GHz band.
The FCC is updating infrastructure policy and encouraging the private sector to invest in 5G networks.
- Speeding Up Federal Review of Small Cells: The FCC adopted new rules aimed at reducing federal regulatory impediments to deploying the small-cell infrastructure needed for 5G.
- Speeding Up State and Local Review of Small Cells: The FCC has reformed rules designed decades ago to accommodate small cells. The reforms ban short-sighted municipal roadblocks that have the effect of prohibiting deployment of 5G and give states and localities a reasonable deadline to approve or disapprove small-cell siting applications.
Modernizing Outdated Regulations
The FCC said it is modernizing outdated regulations to promote 5G backhaul and digital opportunity for all Americans.
- Restoring Internet Freedom: To lead the world in 5G, the United States needs to encourage investment and innovation while protecting Internet openness and freedom. The FCC adopted the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which sets a consistent national policy for Internet providers.
- One-Touch Make-Ready: The FCC has updated its rules governing the attachment of new network equipment to utility poles in order to reduce cost and speed up the process for 5G backhaul deployment.
- Speeding the IP Transition: The FCC has revised its rules to make it easier for companies to invest in next-generation networks and services.
- Business Data Services: In order to incentivize investment in modern fiber networks, the FCC updated rules for high-speed, dedicated services by lifting rate regulation where appropriate.
- Supply Chain Integrity: The FCC has proposed to prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to purchase equipment or services from companies that pose a national security threat to the integrity of American communications networks or the communications supply chain.