Speaking at the CCA’s annual convention in Orlando Tuesday, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr took the opportunity to applaud smaller and regional carriers’ efforts to deploy next-generation services, while emphasizing the importance of infrastructure reforms needed to win the global race to 5G.
“CCA members serve some of the toughest to reach communities in the country,” Carr said. “In my view, those of us in government should be working to make your jobs easier, not harder.”
When the agency last year began addressing what Carr characterized as long pending infrastructure issues, he said it became clear regulatory incrementalism was not going to cut it.
“With the transition from 4G to 5G underway, the FCC needed to take bold action,” Carr said. “Winning the global race to 5G, seeing this new platform deployed in the U.S. first is about economic leadership for the next decade. Those are the stakes.”
He cited the United States’ leadership in 4G and said winning in 5G matters in the same way, determining whether capital flows to the country and if the U.S. will reap the economic benefit.
Carr, unsurprisingly, pointed to China as one of the country’s biggest competitors in the race to 5G.
“[China] views 5G as a chance to flip the script,” he said. “They want to lead the tech sector for the next decade and they’re moving aggressively to deploy the infrastructure needed for 5G.
Carr provided some comparisons: Since 2015 China has deployed 350,000 cell sites, while the U.S. has built less than 30,000; China is currently deploying 460 cell sites per day, which is 12-times the pace of the U.S.; overall China has 1.9 million cell sites, while the U.S. has around 200,000.
“So we have to be honest about this infrastructure challenge, and we need to have the courage to act,” Carr said.
Carr told the audience that the FCC’s plan is straightforward – to get the government out of the way so that smaller and rural carriers and wireless players in the private sector can invest and compete.
Last week the Commission approved an order aimed at speeding 5G deployments by limiting costs and timelines for small cell reviews by local authorities. Carr has said the move will result in $2 billion in savings and provide 2 million more families with next-gen services – 97 percent of which he said are in rural and suburban communities.
“When I think about winning this race to 5G, the finish line is the not the moment that we see next-gen service in New York, or San Francisco,” he said. “Success can only be achieved when all Americans, no matter where they live have a fair shot at fast, affordable broadband.”
Carr reiterated that the small cell review reforms will help service providers, like many of CCA’s members.
“By lowering the cost of deploying small cells, this decision will flip the business case for building 5G in rural and less affluent communities,” Carr said. “I’m confident that with these reforms in place, and [operator’s] commitment to building next-gen networks across the country, the U.S. is back on track in the race to 5G.”