O’Rielly Asks Trump to Help Free Up Federal Mid-Band Spectrum for 5G

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FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly says that while the auction of licenses in the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service and C-band this year are good for 5G, more mid-band spectrum is needed. He’s asking the President for help.

In a letter to President Trump Thursday, O’Rielly says for America to win the race to 5G, “we must identify and make available a key ingredient necessary for 5G networks and systems: mid-band spectrum. Yet, the pipeline is nearly empty,” he tells the President.

“I believe that only you personally, with your unique ability to cut through the bureaucratic stonewalling, can free the necessary spectrum bands to provide our wireless providers the means to succeed,” notes O’Rielly. While providers are taking helpful steps to improve spectrum efficiencies, these efforts will not come close to meeting overall demand, notes the Commissioner. He explains it’s estimated that U.S. carriers will need upwards of 350 megahertz of mid-band spectrum over the next few years, beyond what will be reallocated in the CBRS and C-Band, to bring ample 5G, and eventually 6G, services to consumers.  

The only potential source of such large swaths of mid-band spectrum for 5G commercial wireless services is held by U.S. federal departments and agencies. It’s been proven that federal users can reduce their spectrum holdings without putting their vital missions at risk, according to O’Rielly.

“Nonetheless, these same entities, especially the Department of Defense, which is the largest holder of the most ideal mid-band spectrum, are 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,” writes O’Rielly.

Even when there is an agreement to reallocate a federal band for commercial use, it takes years to clear it and allow wireless providers to use it. The U.S. doesn’t have that luxury, “especially when competitors such as China can move expeditiously to reassign spectrum frequencies by leveraging all the resources and power of their centralized, Communist regime,” he writes.

The letter caught the attention of CTIA. Its President and CEO, Meredith Attwell Baker stated:  “We share Commissioner O’Rielly’s concerns about the lack of a mid-band spectrum pipeline. 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.”

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