Public-Private Engagement, Funding Discussed in NTIA 5G Industry Meetings


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The federal government says it’s committed to fostering innovation and realizing the technological potential of 5G. That’s why the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) held 5G listening sessions with industry and government representatives to identify incentives and policy options to ensure the U.S. has adequate sources of secure, effective, and reliable 5th and future generation wireless communications systems and infrastructure.

In January, NTIA held the first industry listening session that focused on steps the federal government, along with industry, can take concerning 5G market incentives. Participants discussed closing security gaps and domestic 5G development. The portion surrounding leveraging trusted suppliers addressed which market or other incentives the U.S. government could put in place to promote or further encourage international cooperation for secure and trusted 5G infrastructure development. 

In each of the sessions, industry partners emphasized the need for additional government funding, particularly to assist with research and development (R&D) and testing of these new technologies, with some participants also asking for assistance on workforce training. The need for increased information sharing between government and industry on supply chain risks was another key takeaway, according to NTIA.

“Updating export credit financing guidelines to include 5G equipment was another incentive that industry partners emphasized, as it is an important means to support the international competitiveness of U.S. industry,” noted NTIA in its report on the sessions released yesterday. Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN) is an approach to telecom network architecture that uses open interface specifications to allow for the disaggregation of network equipment, software, and services that have traditionally been bundled together by vertically-integrated vendors. On this topic however, industry partners disagreed as to whether the government should mandate Open RAN architectures to mitigate security concerns.

In February, NTIA held the second session, which centered on vendor diversity for 5G security. Participants debated the opportunities and challenges of ORAN, R&D and testing. Promoting open and interoperable networks in concert with international partners and allies was also discussed.

Government-supported research and development funding, particularly around testbeds, was highlighted several times. Although industry members cautioned that standards organizations should continue to be industry-led, several participants discussed the need for additional coordination with the government and industry on the work that occurs in these bodies.   

Top conclusions from major areas of discussion are:

  • Public-private engagement: Participants expressed appreciation for the ability to engage directly with the government and raised the need for improved information sharing on security matters between the government and industry.
  • Funding: The funding focus was primarily on the potential role of government testbeds, but participants also cited the need for the government to invest in infrastructure measures like fiber network build-out, workforce development, and international competitiveness.
  • Network Development: Participants argued for continued government support for voluntary, industry-led standards development processes, stressing the importance of these standards for the global security and interoperability of 5G networks.
  • Open RAN: Participants were generally enthusiastic about Open RAN’s potential to deliver a range of benefits, including greater vendor diversity and supply chain resilience, and supported an active role for the government in fostering the conditions for Open RAN’s continued development and adoption.

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