The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the Trump administration has announced on 12 April plans for a spectrum auction and to bolster broadband in rural areas across the country as part of its 5G Fast Plan, which looks to speed-up the rollout of 5G technology across the US.
The auction is scheduled to begin on 10 December and – with 3,400 megahertz in three different spectrum bands up for grabs – will be the largest slice of the airwaves that the FCC has ever auctioned for commercial use at one time. Spectrum is the airwaves that the networks use to provide internet to devices and this space is regulated by the FCC.
With tens of millions of Americans still without broadband, providers have been urging the regulator to open up mid-band airwaves that can project signals over longer distances, improving connectivity in rural areas.
The FCC also announced a series of measures to help connect these areas to faster internet, including repurposing funds from other programs to create the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and new rules that would allow “Fixed Satellite Service operators to provide faster, more advanced services to their customers” using 50 GHz spectrum.
This program seeks to connect up to four million households and businesses to high-speed internet networks via US$20.4 billion in subsidies over 10 years to companies through an auction process to build out broadband infrastructure in rural areas.
The 5G Fast Plan also covers initiatives such as restrictions on how much cities can charge for deployment of 5G infrastructure and a 90-day limit on the processing of applications for such development.
Meanwhile, some mobile phone carriers – including Verizon and AT&T – have begun launching their 5G networks across the US. Sprint and T-Mobile are both expected to start activating theirs over the next few months. Currently, there is one 5G enabled phone available in the US, offered by Motorola and Verizon.
5G is the fifth generation of mobile internet and promises fast data download and upload speeds, alongside wider coverage and more stable connections. In short, it aims to make better use of the radio spectrum (hence the auction) and to enable more devices to access mobile internet simultaneously.
Users will require new, 5G enabled phones to access the network, which experts believe may lead to the development of higher quality video, better virtual and augmented reality on your phone, advances in smart technology and the internet of things, clearer and less jerky video calls, less delay for gamers, and better coordination between drones carrying out tasks such as search and rescue missions.
The race between countries to launch the network has become highly competitive with US President Donald Trump recently describing it as a private sector driven and private sector led” competition that “America must win” at a launch event with the FCC’s chairman Ajit Pai for the regulator’s new initiatives.