White House to Develop National Spectrum Strategy to Win 'Race to 5G'

The White House said Thursday that it would develop a national spectrum strategy to help the US "win the global race to 5G."

Deputy US Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios issued a memo Thursday afternoon that stated the administration's intent to "accelerate our development and deployment of 5G." The cornerstone of that plan is to "additional spectrum" available for deployment of next-generation mobile networks.

President Trump also issued a Presidential Memorandum Thursday entitled Developing a Sustainable Spectrum Strategy for America's Future, which will ask government agencies to examine what spectrum they need for federal usage, and what can be opened up for commercial purposes, with an initial report due next summer.

Trump's memo roll supplants two Obama-era memos on spectrum policy from 2010 and 2013.

"To lead in 5G and reap the benefits of better and faster wireless connections, we must have a forward-looking, strategic spectrum policy," Kratsios writes in the White House memo.

"As we continue to innovate and our devices become better, faster, and more capable, the demand for spectrum -- the frequencies in which invisible radio waves move data between devices and the fuel of our wireless ecosystem -- will only grow. Deploying 5G is only possible if we continue to make additional spectrum available and use it more efficiently."

Kratsios writes that a new spectrum plan will ensure US leadership in 5G, fuel job growth -- he writes that the wireless industry "contributes $475 billion to the economy every year and supports nearly 4.7 million jobs" -- while helping to "protect the American homeland."

US operators do appear to be winning -- at least in the early stages of 5G -- with Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) launching fixed home-grown access 5G in several markets, while AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) will launch its first mobile 5G market -- or markets -- within a few weeks. On the face of it, US carriers already lead the rest of the world in being first with 5G.

The fear, however, is that the Chinese will overtake the US in 5G primacy, and shape the new-ish standard to its requirements. There were even reports, early this year, that the Trump administration was considering how to nationalize 5G. None of that came to pass, but it's clear that Trump does consider 5G a gamechanger. (See Has China Really Opened Up a 5G Gap? , Trump Could Nationalize 5G – Report and Trump on 5G: It's a 'Gamechanger'.)

What's not exactly clear is if, or how, a spectrum plan might play into the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's upcoming auctions yet. Bidding on the first 28GHz millimeter wave auction is due to start on November 14. More high-band 5G-focused millimeter auctions will follow, while the 3.5GHz CBRS auction is expected to happen in 2019.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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