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FCC to Consider Additional 5G Spectrum; Getting Tough on Municipalities

The FCC will seek comment on making additional spectrum available in the 26 GHz and 42 GHz bands for flexible terrestrial wireless use in the third installment of its Spectrum Frontiers proceeding, which makes millimeter wave spectrum, in the bands at or above 24 GHz available for 5G and the Internet of Things.

“In our conversations with carriers and those that would like to enter the space, they have expressed a great demand for millimeter frequencies,” FCC Commissioner Michael O’Reilly told the audience during the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s Connectivity Expo, yesterday, in Charlotte. “We’re getting ready to auction high-band and push as much spectrum into the marketplace as possible.” O’Reilly said he is also working to make a swath of mid-band spectrum available for 5G or advanced 4G. He was interviewed by Kathleen Abernathy of Wilkinson Barker Knauer.

Opening up different bands requires that “you have greater harmonizing and tuning frequencies,” O’Reilly said in an interview with eDigest after his session. “That means opening up 26 GHz when 28 GHz is already available to create a wider swath of spectrum for providing services. In the millimeter wave bands we are going to need bigger chunks of spectrum to get the full capacity and provide the services that the carriers envision.”

FCC Can Pull Multiple Levers to Enable 5G

O’Reilly said he feels the weight of the important role the FCC plays in giving U.S. carriers the opportunity to deploy 5G. With that in mind, the Commission carefully goes about its decision making concerning spectrum and wireless regulation.

Different considerations go into making spectrum available for 5G, O’Reilly said. First, you need to find the appropriate bands that are lightly used for reallocation. Then the spectrum must be auctioned, and the timing of the auction is critical. It must be quick enough to allow the carriers to continue their deployment of infrastructure but not before the entities have raised the capital to bid on the frequencies.

“There is definitely a race to deploy 5G. I believe it is a global race. There are four or five countries that are trying to beat us to have full functioning 5G technology, because they know the benefits to GDP and jobs,” he said. “Our wireless carriers are doing a wonderful job of rushing ahead to deploy 5G, and we are well positioned to be successful.”

More Regulatory Reform on the Horizon

O’Reilly state and local jurisdictions are still acting in ways that impede the deployment of wireless infrastructure and therefore slowing the backbone of 5G.

“We should applaud the good communities that are forward leaning and want to see deployment,” he said. But there are also bad actors that are slowing the deployment of wireless infrastructure.

Among the bad actors, according to O’Reilly, are communities that act out of a desire to charge an inordinate amount of money for access to the right-of-way. He mentioned, for example, the jurisdiction that demanded $4,000 per small cell. He also blamed delays in deployment on municipalities that either lack of process or have inefficient processes.

The FCC must use its authority to remove regulatory impediments to the deployment and development of networks, O’Reilly said. He hopes the FCC will take action on removing state and local barriers to small cell deployment sometime this summer.

“We have tried to be nice, cajoling the states and municipalities to do the right thing. It hasn’t exactly worked in most cases. We have had increasing problems. There is only so much good will you can expend on one side of the equation,” he said. “Now we are going to go the aggressive route, getting bad actor communities out of the way.”

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