More Money, Resources Needed for Rural 5G Deployment

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In its 5G hearing, the Senate Commerce Committee largely focused on security issues, Inside Towers reported, however witnesses from CTIA and CCA also highlighted spectrum availability, funding rural broadband and the accuracy of the FCC’s broadband maps.

Access to enough and the right kinds of spectrum to enable 5G is an industry concern. “Spectrum is the invisible building block for everything we do,” said CTIA EVP Brad Gillen. Access to mid-band spectrum is especially critical, he said, noting that other countries like, China, have cleared 300 MHz of mid-band spectrum for 5G while the U.S. “will only see about” 70 MHz so far.CCA President/CEO Steve Berry agreed, saying all carriers must have access to low, medium and high-band spectrum. Keeping the broadcast repack on track is vital, he said, to enable carriers to access the low-band spectrum they purchased in the FCC’s broadcast incentive auction.  

Berry also stressed Congress must update the Universal Service Fund policies, noting the USF “must be sustainable.” And key to that is making sure the FCC’s broadband coverage maps are accurate, he said.

Sen, Brian Schatz (D-HI), said rural broadband deployment needs more money to make it happen. Pointing out that 4G doesn’t even exist in many places, he said: “We want to win every race, but not admit this needs resources. If we think about this on the scale that’s necessary, like rural electrification, then we need more money.”

Berry agreed, saying, rural broadband deployment “costs money and resources. We need to figure out who should contribute,” calling again for an update of the USF subsidies.

How will we know who wins the 5G race, asked Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS). “We will know in a few years,” said Gillen, explaining the deployments are a long-term effort. “I think we’ll know when we see where the investments are going.”  Comments? Email Us.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

February 8, 2019   

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