O'Rielly Seeks Trump Help in Getting DOD Spectrum for 5G

Republican FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly has asked President Trump to lean on the Department of Defense to free up spectrum for 5G.

That came in an April 8 letter to Trump from O'Rielly, who is a fan of the President.

O'Rielly praised the President's "extraordinary leadership" on "all communications policy matters" before getting to the ask, which was his direct intervention to get DOD to "reduce its spectrum footprint in a timely manner to promote 5G services."

But while the President has made winning the race to 5G a priority, he is also historically deferential to the military.

O'Rielly included praise for both Trump and his efforts to boost the military, but said freeing up 5G did not threaten that legacy or the national defense.

Related: CTIA ID's more GI Spectrum for 5G

"Under your direction, the U.S. military has been vastly improved and better funded to ensure it regains its prominence as the finest and strongest force ever seen on the face of the Earth," he said. "At the same time, it is clear that more can be done to improve spectrum efficiency within DoD. Indeed, the reallocation of spectrum from DoD is not mutually exclusive with national security and must be pursued for the betterment of the American people and to ensure the continued success of our military under your leadership."

He said that the only potential source of huge tracts of midband spectrum for commercial 5G wireless were to be found in the hands of Federal departments and agencies and that they had been reluctant to part with it, especially DOD, "the largest holder of the most ideal mid-band spectrum."

He gave the distinct impression DOD could be renamed DOSD, the Department of Spectrum Defense, saying it was "exceptionally reluctant to part with one single megahertz. Simply put, every excuse, delay tactic, and political chit is used to prevent the repurposing of any spectrum."

CTIA-the Wireless Association president Meredith Attwell Baker added her member's support to O'Rielly's effort.

“We share Commissioner O’Rielly’s concerns about the lack of a mid-band spectrum pipeline," she said. "We are long overdue for action on the 3 GHz band and we need the administration to quickly clear a significant portion of that spectrum to help drive our future 5G economy." 

John Eggerton

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.