Speaking at a White House event Friday, President Donald Trump put to rest the previously floated idea of nationalized 5G networks, confirming the country’s approach to winning the 5G race is private sector-driven.
“Leading [5G] through the government, we don’t want to do that,” Trump said. “It won’t be nearly as good or nearly as fast.”
Previously there had been reports that the Administration might pursue nationalizing spectrum resources or government-mandated wholesale 5G markets.
“The White House’s continued commitment to the free-market principles that have made the U.S. the global leader in wireless recognizes this industry’s remarkable track record of investing in our nation’s connectivity infrastructure—$226 billion in the last nine years alone,” said CTIA president and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker in a statement.
In his comments, Trump reiterated the need to be a world leader in developing secure and strong 5G networks, while also not leaving rural communities behind.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai spoke at the event to announce the agency’s third 5G spectrum auction as well as a new multi-billion-dollar fund to support next-generation broadband in rural areas.
In introducing Pai, Trump had high expectations for the rural broadband announcement, saying it would “extend broadband access to every American, no matter where you are you’ll have access very quickly to 5G and it’s going to be a different life.” Though, he added, “I don’t know if it’s going to be better, maybe you’re happy with the way it is right now, but I can say technologically it won’t even be close.”
Specifically, the FCC plans to create a $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity fund to extend high-speed broadband to up to 4 million homes and small businesses in rural America over the next decade. The funding will come through a reverse auction to service providers who will build networks to provide gigabit-speed broadband in areas that connectivity is lacking most.
CCA, an industry group representing smaller and rural carriers, applauded the announcement.
“CCA thanks the Administration for its focus on deploying 5G throughout the US and particularly for including rural areas in its plan,” said CCA President & CEO Steven K. Berry in a statement. “The economic, education, health, social – and many other – benefits that come with connectivity are countless, and to make sure rural Americans have comparable services to urban areas, we must support both fixed and mobile networks. CCA looks forward to participating in the development of the Rural Digital Opportunities fund to support 5G services nationwide.”
Pai also announced the third 5G spectrum auction will start December 10. A total of 3,400 megahertz of spectrum will be up for auction across the upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands, marking the largest spectrum auction in U.S. history.
The FCC is currently in the midst of its second millimeter waver spectrum auction. Bids in the ongoing 24 GHz auction had raised nearly $2 billion as of late Friday afternoon.
While Pai said in his remarks that today 5G is an American success story, he acknowledged the success is still early.
“We still need to do more. And we will,” Pai said, noting the two newly announced steps will build on the agency’s momentum of freeing up spectrum, easing wireless infrastructure installations and encouraging optical fiber deployments.