Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Attorney General Barr Presses for U.S. Action Now on 5G

On February 6, Attorney General William Barr delivered the keynote address at the Justice Department's "China Initiative Conference" in Washington D.C. Attorney General Barr primarily addressed the technological and economic challenges posed to the U.S. by China in the areas of intellectual property theft and 5G dominance. His address is worth reading or viewing in full. (For C-SPAN, AG Barr's address begins about 1 hour and 26 minutes into the stream and his remarks on 5G begin at about 1 hour and 38 minutes in.)

In his address, AG Barr stressed the importance of making spectrum resources available for 5G services in the U.S. He specifically identified C-Band and L-Band spectrum as critically important for rapid deployment of 5G. From AG Barr's prepared remarks
The FCC has been working hard to get the C-band spectrum out into the market through an auction.  It is critical to get this done within the next few months.  Even then, the U.S. will need 400,000 base stations to cover the nation.  This could take a decade or more to build out. Recently, there have been interesting proposals to jump-start U.S.  5G by also making available L-band spectrum for use in tandem with the C-band.  By using the L-band for uplink, we could dramatically reduce the number of base stations required to complete national coverage.  It has been suggested that this could cut the time for U.S. 5G deployment from a decade to 18 months, and save approximately $80 million.  While some technical issues about using the L-band are being debated, it is imperative that the FCC resolves this question. The bottom line is that we have to move decisively to auction the C-band spectrum, and bring to resolution the issues over L-band.  Our economic future is at stake.  We have to bear in mind that, given the narrow window we face, the risk of losing the 5G struggle with China should vastly outweigh all other considerations.
Free State Foundation scholars have also advocated prompt action by the FCC to put C-Band and L-Band spectrum into commercial use. On February 6, FSF President Randolph May issued a statement regarding the FCC's proposed order to transition incumbent users in the C-band and clear for auction 280 MHz in that band. And my December 19, 2019 blog post, "FCC Should Green Light Wireless Services in L-Band Spectrum," urged prompt FCC decision on Ligado Networks' modified applications to deploy a satellite-terrestrial hybrid mobile network for commercial services in unused L-band spectrum.  

Importantly, AG Barr's keynote address also called attention to the pressing issue of 5G equipment suppliers and the need to have a market-ready alternative to Chinese 5G equipment suppliers. His call that the U.S. and its closest allies need to consider ways to put our large market and financial muscle behind viable competitors – insofar as it is carried out by by private American and allied companies – merits serious consideration.