U.S. FCC to auction additional 5G spectrum, boost rural internet

The Associated Press

The U.S. communications regulator will hold a massive auction to bolster 5G service, the next generation of mobile networks, and will spend $20 billion for rural internet.

Pai, a former Verizon lobbyist, also said the next 5G auction, scheduled for December 10, will be the FCC's largest one yet.

"This is a critical tool towards closing the digital divide and will provide some of the critical infrastructure to connecting rural Americans with 5G technologies", Pai said. "We don't want to do that, because it won't be almost as good, almost as fast".

Pai said that the FCC would not only auction off more bandwidth but reduce regulatory obstacles of fiber and wireless infrastructure proposed by the Obama administration.

Harold Feld at the consumer group Public Knowledge said it was not clear if the funding for rural broadband would be new or simply taken from an existing program. We are removing regularity barriers to the buildout of networks.

Rosenworcel, a frequent critic of Pai's, applauded the FCC for selling off more high-band spectrum, but said the federal government is writing off mid-band spectrum - which offers lower speeds over longer ranges - potentially costing the United States a competitive advantage.

A 5G network expansion will mean faster wireless speeds and has implications for technologies like self-driving cars and augmented reality.

There have been concerns that the United States may be lagging behind China in 5G, but Pai is confident the U.S.is leading the way.

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Trump on Friday said the 5G industry in the United States would be "private sector-driven and private sector-led", so the U.S. government does not have to spend lots of money.

The millimeter-wave spectrum or high-band spectrum to be auctioned off refers to frequencies above 24 GHz.

The FCC voted on Friday to seek comments on bidding procedures for the next auction. Networks must be secured. Pai declared 5G an American success story.

It will take years to roll out, and the highest data speeds and capacities may not reach rural areas at all.

One challenge is the lack of US manufacturers of 5G network equipment, an arena where China's Huawei and ZTE are set to dominate.

"WISPA hails the intensified focus on bettering rural connectivity, which will help country farmers receive the same evolving level of broadband services and connectivity as city financiers", said the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, in a statement.

Pai said Friday he is committed to making airwaves of all types a priority.

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