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D.C. Reacts to FCC's 5G New Frontier

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler drew some plaudits and questions June 20 following his National Press Club speech declaring a "Spectrum Frontier" 5G effort he compared to President Kennedy's New Frontier initiative of 1960.

Wheeler is circulating new rules this week on freeing up massive amounts of spectrum, including unlicensed, for fifth generation mobile broadband and plans to vote the rules next month.

“We agree with Chairman Wheeler that 5G deployment will help continue America’s global leadership in next generation technologies," said USTelecom President Walter McCormick. "Significantly, America has led the world in rolling out 4G in part because the FCC adopted pro-investment policies that rely on competition, rather than regulation, as an incentive to build fiber to cell towers. The nation now stands at a similar crossroads with the opportunity to encourage investment in the backhaul services to support 5G."

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USTelecom is not sure the FCC is going in the right direction when it comes to business broadband. Wheeler has said before, and did again in Monday's speech, that the FCC's proposal to reform business data (special access) services is crucial to the 5G rollout.

"In over 90 percent of the country where people are buying business data services there is robust competition, and it is growing,” said McCormick. "Thus, the conundrum: We understand the purpose of regulation in the absence of competition, but find it puzzling that the chairman would propose regulation in the presence of competition, particularly when the goal is to incentivize more investment, not less."

"Chairman Wheeler deserves our commendation and thanks for signaling today in the clearest terms that the FCC is determined to do its part to help make 5G a reality," said Ev Ehrlich, former Undersecretary of Commerce for President Bill Clinton. "Without FCC leadership, the U.S. will not win the race to 5G and maintain its global leadership in mobile communications. The amazing 5G economy that awaits us will require a significant increase in available spectrum, new and denser cell network infrastructure, and ongoing public-private cooperation to speed deployment of that infrastructure. Chairman Wheeler deserves the support of communities all across the political spectrum in making that happen."

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In the speech, Wheeler pointed out that 5G would be infrastructure intensive, "requiring a massive deployment of small cells."

That sounded about right to the Wireless Infrastructure Association. As the Chairman underscored, the responsible and efficient deployment of all forms of wireless infrastructure is needed in order to effectively provide mobile broadband in both urban and rural communities across the nation.

“We continue to support the efforts by the FCC and Chairman Wheeler to streamline the environmental and historic preservation review process and tighten the ‘shot clock’ for siting applications." Wheeler's FCC has taken steps already to speed permitting and citing of towers in advance of the expected demand.

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"The Chairman is spot on when he speaks of the critical role local governments will play in how our future wireless networks are deployed and the respectful partnership our industry has developed with them to promote wireless broadband in their communities," WIA said.

"Qualcomm strongly supports FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s 5G initiative," said Qualcomm senior VP Dean Brenner. "Qualcomm has been developing the building blocks for 5G for years--- just as we pioneered the fundamental building blocks for 3G and 4G. While 3G and 4G connected people, 5G will connect everything. To bring 5G to fruition, Qualcomm is working to get the most out of every bit of spectrum across a wide array of available spectrum regulatory paradigms (including licensed and shared) and spectrum bands."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.