Industry Urges Lawmakers to Focus on Spectrum, Infrastructure Siting for 5G

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On average, it takes roughly 13 years to reallocate spectrum for wireless use. Congress can do several things to speed that up to help wireless providers prepare to deploy 5G. That’s according to representatives of CTIA, Ericsson and Ruckus Wireless who spoke with lawmakers during a House Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing Wednesday about how the federal government can help meet the country’s growing spectrum needs.    

The nation needs a clear plan for the additional use of spectrum. Congress also needs to update infrastructure siting rules, said CTIA VP Regulatory Affairs Scott Bergmann. Small cells “are less intrusive” than tall towers and they will need to be “deployed by the hundreds of thousands” for 5G. Addressing burdensome local zoning regulations and imposing shot clocks to speed decisions by local municipalities would help, he said.

Backhaul, the connection between the tower and the base station, accounts for about one-third of deployment costs, according to the FCC. Delays add to siting costs, said both Bergmann and Ericsson VP of Government Affairs and Policy Jared Carlson.

Ericsson faces laws “that look at towers the same as they did 20 years ago. The policies that treat small cells the same as a 200-foot tower don’t make sense,” stressed Carlson, noting the wireless provider is looking to site small cells on light poles and flag poles, or the sides of buildings, for example. He also favors mechanisms by which, if a local government hasn’t acted on a siting application by a certain time, “you could say ‘we’re done,’ meaning your inaction means we can put up the tower.”  

America needs new spectrum designations for licensed, unlicensed and shared spectrum to meet WiFi needs, said Ruckus Wireless Director of Regulatory Affairs and Network Standards, Dave Wright. Low-band, mid-range and high-band spectrum are needed. “There have been no new designations of mid-range spectrum for wireless since 2002,” he said, to illustrate the gap between how fast technology and consumer needs are outstripping the nation’s wireless spectrum allocations.

Following the hearing, Wireless Infrastructure Association President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein stated “The nation’s wireless infrastructure provides the foundation upon which the wireless industry will deliver 5G, the Internet of Things and the jobs that will fuel the U.S. economy for years to come. Our nation’s wireless economy requires sound regulations and policy at the local, state, and federal levels.” The subcommittee is striving to lower many of the barriers to wireless broadband deployment and Adelstein noted that “WIA looks forward to working with Congress and the FCC to clear roadblocks that increase costs and slow the rollout of mobile networks.”

April 6, 2017

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