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O'Rielly: Beating World to 5G Is What Matters

FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly said beating the rest of the world to 5G is a primary personal goal, and that winning is even more important than the benefits of the technology.

O'Rielly's Vince Lombardi-like focus on victory -- Lombardi famously said, "Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” -- was relayed in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute Thursday (April 19).

Related: FCC to Launch 5G Spectrum Auctions

Why is winning in 5G so important? "It’s not because this is the shiny new technology that can bring stated benefits of higher wireless speeds, lower latency, increased capacity, and many other features, although that is likely all true," he said. "Instead, it’s about a global race to be the first among many competing nations to 5G. As a regulator, a term I abhor [he is a strong deregulatory second to the proposals of FCC chair Ajit Pai], this is generally not our primary mission, but here, the ramifications are so significant, and our functions are so germane, that it has become a primary focus of mine."

That is because O'Rielly sees losing that race as meaning the U.S. would be dictated to by foreign powers, "many of which can’t be fully trusted, don’t believe in capitalism, don’t believe in freedom, don’t believe in fair play, don’t believe in the role of the individual over the government, and rebuke American leadership."

He did not name any specific countries, but a study released this week showed that China is leading the race to 5G.

O'Rielly said the U.S. was not trying to dictate industrial policy, just make sure it was not being dictated to.

He cited the FCC vote two days ago on auction procedures for new 5G spectrum in the 25 and 28 GHz bands, but said the FCC also needed to set a timetable for the next auction (37 and 39 GHz) so wireless companies could prepare. "Did we not learn anything after the 600 MHz incentive auction? Indeed, companies have balance sheets, debt-equity ratios, and responsibilities to shareholders, and they need the requisite time to plan."

O'Rielly is on the same page as Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel when it comes to giving auction bidders plenty of notice. At the FCC's April 17 meeting approving the auction procedures, she advised the FCC to pu tit in writing.

"Let’s publish a calendar that states clearly to the entire wireless ecosystem—from existing providers to new spectrum interests to manufacturers and consumers—just when and how the FCC will auction new airwaves to support 5G services," she said. "That is what leadership entails. That is what we need to do."