America must win the race to 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity. And this matters for two key reasons:
The first is national competitiveness. We want the good-paying jobs that develop and deploy 5G technologies — jobs that support some of the folks in this room — to be created here, in America. We want these technologies to give our economy a leg up as we compete against the rest of the world.
The second reason U.S. leadership matters is that 5G will improve Americans’ lives in so many ways, from precision agriculture, to smart transportation networks, to telemedicine, and more. We want Americans to be the first to benefit from this new digital revolution while protecting our innovators and our citizens. We don’t want rural Americans to be left behind.
I’m pleased to report that America is now well positioned to win the race to fast, secure and reliable 5G. And don’t just take my word for it. In February, ABI Research stated, “It is the United States who will win the 5G race in the short term.” That same month, Cisco projected that, in three years, 5G would be more than twice as prevalent in North America as in Asia.
In early April, CTIA reported that America leads the world with the most commercial 5G deployments of any nation.
And April 10, it was reported that 5G-related job listings here in the United States increased 12 percent in the previous three weeks, according to data from an online job search service.
Today, 5G is a success story — an American success story. Well, how are we getting the job done? As the lead agency on 5G, the FCC is pursuing a three-part strategy called the 5G FAST Plan. First, we’re freeing up spectrum, the invisible airwaves that carry wireless traffic. We finished our first 5G spectrum auction in January, and we’re holding a second, right now, that has already generated almost $2 billion in bids.
Second, we’re making it easier to install wireless infrastructure. 5G will rely heavily on a web of small antennas. But when I came into office, regulations designed for tall towers threatened to strangle our 5G future in red tape. We have eliminated these rules, because infrastructure the size of a pizza box shouldn’t have to jump through the same regulatory hoops as a 200-foot cell tower.
And third, we’ve taken action to encourage the deployment of optical fiber. That is because 5G isn’t just about wireless. We’ll also need strong fiber networks to carry 5G traffic once it goes from the air to the ground. And we’ve done a lot to make that happen, including ending heavy-handed regulations imposed by the prior administration.
And here, too, we are getting results. Last year, fiber was deployed to more new locations in the United States than in any year before. But in the race to 5G, our early success is still early. We still need to do more, and we will.
I’m announcing two new steps the FCC will take to build on our momentum. First, the FCC intends to start its third 5G spectrum auction on Dec. 10. This will be the largest spectrum auction in American history. We will be selling 3,400 megahertz in three different bands. That is a lot of spectrum.
Second, to help build the infrastructure of the future, the FCC aims to create a $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund headed by the agency. This money will extend high-speed broadband to up to 4 million homes and small businesses in rural America. These next-generation networks will bring greater economic opportunity to America’s heartland, including some of the great jobs building infrastructure, and they will help support future 5G technologies.
Ajit Pai is chairman of the FCC. Edited for length and style, this article was excerpted from the chairman’s remarks made during the U.S. 5G deployment technology press conference in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on April 12. For the unabridged text, visit www.whitehouse.gov.
This article ran in the June 2019 issue of AGL Magazine.