Trump on 5G: It's a 'Gamechanger'

Dan Jones
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

Even if the fevered reports emerging today that the US government could build its own 5G network, or nationalize 5G operations, come to nothing, we now know that the administration -- to its highest echelons -- has its mind on the new network technology.

In fact, Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK)'s CTO revealed this weekend that President Trump had dinner with the company's CEO last week in Davos. Apparently Trump had this to say:

This comes as Axios has unearthed a National Security Council proposal that the government build its own 5G network, in part, because of fears about Chinese dominance in the radio access network (RAN) space. Although Recode is now reporting that the NSC paper is an outdated document. (See Trump Could Nationalize 5G – Report.)

Now, since US carriers are basically barred from using Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) anyway, it's not clear to me exactly what difference taking 5G into the feds' hands would make. But it's easy to see why a vendor like Nokia might be interested in such a prospect. (See Nationalize 5G in the US? LOL, WTF?!)

In the end, I suspect that this is an interesting proposal that won't go anywhere. Given how it took to get the public-private partnership of the FirstNet emergency LTE network from drawing board to actual deployment, we might not even want to bet on an admin-built 5G network arriving in a timely fashion.

FirstNet, you may recall, was first proposed in 2006, as a response to 9/11. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is just starting to deploy the network now. (See 50 US States Sign on for Nationwide Safety Network .)

Still, it's pretty interesting that what looks to be a fairly wonky policy doc is causing such a stir. It shows how wireless services have become such a central part of our life in 2018. I can't imagine the same thing happening around 4G in 2007 or 2008 or 3G in 1997.

If Trump sees the 1-gigabit-per-second wireless service as such a "gamechanger" though, there's one thing that can be done to facilitate its speedier arrival in the US: set a date for 5G spectrum auctions as soon as possible to open more frequencies for 5G. (See FCC Wants to Open More High-Band Spectrum for 5G.)

Spectrum, and especially access to high-band millimeter wave spectrum, could be a real stumbling block to deploying 5G in the US. Basically, without access to more spectrum, only Verizon really has access to large amounts of mmWave spectrum at the present time. (See FCC's Rosenworcel Urges US to 'Go It Alone' With 28GHz for 5G.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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