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Trump's economic adviser reiterates 'free market approach' to 5G

"The Trump administration is going to keep its free market approach and we will rely on private sector entrepreneurship and science and technological advances, which is the stuff that makes America great," said Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council and one of President Trump's top economic advisers.

"Our strategy and policies have not changed," Kudlow added in comments Tuesday at the CTIA 5G Summit, which is part of the GSMA's Thrive North America virtual event. "The president has not wavered on this story."

Importantly, Kudlow reiterated that the US Department of Defense (DoD) continues to move forward with an auction of 100MHz of midband spectrum via the FCC, scheduled to take place next year.

Kudlow's comments likely refer to the August agreement between the White House and the DoD to auction the 3.45-3.55GHz band for 5G. However, that proposal was called into question just a few weeks later, when the DoD issued a Request for Information (RFI) focusing on the exact same band. The DoD said it was looking at how it might "own and operate 5G networks for its domestic operations."

That RFI set off widespread concerns in Washington, D.C., that the DoD was quietly moving forward with a plan to build a "nationalized" 5G network – an issue that has dogged the Trump administration for years.

Indeed, citing sources familiar with the matter, The Hill on Monday reported that wireless industry representatives have been seeking a meeting with President Trump's Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who reportedly has been pushing for a national network managed by the DoD.

"DoD has no plans to own and operate a nationwide 5G network," DoD spokesperson Russell Goemaere told The Hill Monday. "However, as the RFI asked, DoD is exploring the idea of owning and operating a 5G network on military bases."

The DoD has already issued $600 million in contracts to build 5G networks at bases across the US, and more than $200 million in contracts for a 5G network in space.

Responses to the DoD's RFI have already been filed, but a DoD spokesperson told Light Reading they did not know if the filings would be made public.

Nonetheless, concerns continue that Trump is seeking some kind of national 5G network. After all, one of the 51 items on the president's reelection platform is to "win the race to 5G and establish a national high-speed wireless Internet network." Trump hasn't released any details on that plan, nor has he released his plan for the wider economy.

Finally, it's worth noting that there are plenty of examples of public disputes among members of the Trump administration, ranging from whether the pandemic is worsening to whether political loyalty should play a role in government service.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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