“It’s all about 5G now,” President Donald Trump said in a Friday afternoon speech at the White House designed to boast about early accomplishments and lay out a vision for wireless connectivity in the years ahead.
“I guess at some point we’ll be talking about No. 6,” he said. “But right now we want to be the leader in this. We’re the leader in almost everything else.”
Trump was joined by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai who shared new details about a fund to accelerate deployment of high-speed broadband in rural America and an auction of more spectrum designated for 5G that will get underway at the end of 2019.
“America must win the race to 5G,” and it matters because national competitiveness and quality of life are on the line, Pai said. “We want Americans to be the first to benefit from this new digital revolution while protecting our innovators and our citizens.”
‘Largest Spectrum Auction in American History’
The FCC intends to start its third 5G spectrum auction on Dec. 10. “This will be the largest spectrum auction in American history. We will be selling 3,400 megahertz in three different bands…That is a lot of spectrum,” Pai said. The next phase of spectrum to be auctioned sits in the 37, 39 and 47 GHz bands.
“As we are making great progress with 5G, we’re also focused on rural communities that do not have access to broadband at all,” Trump said. “No matter where you are, you will have access very quickly to 5G, and it’s going to be a different life. I don’t know that it’s going to be better, maybe you’re happy the way it is right now, but I can say technologically it won’t even be close.”
The FCC announced plans to create a $20.4 billion rural digital opportunity fund, and Pai echoed Trump’s comments about rural Americans often being ignored or left behind. “This money will extend high-speed broadband to 4 million homes and small businesses in rural America,” Pai said.
Trump gave his speech surrounded by a group of farmers wearing cowboy hats and cell tower technicians wearing safety harnesses and hardhats.
5G networks will be a “vital link to America’s prosperity and national security in the 21st century,” Trump said. “It will transform the way our citizens work, learn, communicate, and travel. It will make American farms more productive, American manufacturing more competitive, and American healthcare better and more accessible. Basically it covers almost everything when you get right down to it.”
5G networks will also create new opportunities that were unimaginable a short time ago, he added. “We cannot allow any other country to out-compete the United States in this powerful industry of the future,” Trump said. “5G is a race that America must win…It’s a race that we will win.”
Nationalized 5G Plan Dies
Trump also put to rest a much-derided proposal that would have placed more control of America’s wireless networks in the hands of government, specifically a nationalized 5G network. “In the United States our approach is private-sector driven and private-sector led,” he said. Distancing himself from the idea that originated in his administration, Trump said a government-led network wouldn’t be as good or as fast as those being deployed by private companies today.
“To accelerate and incentivize these investments, my administration is focused on freeing up as much wireless spectrum as possible. We’re going to free it up,” he said. “The FCC is taking very bold action — probably bolder than they’ve ever taken before, it’s a new frontier — to make wireless spectrum available. By next year the United States is on pace to have more 5G spectrum than any other country in the world.”
Trump also applauded the FCC’s efforts to remove regulations that can slow and increase the costs of wireless infrastructure. “It takes too long to get permits,” he said. “[State and local governments] must now approve new physical infrastructure within 90 days instead of many years. And there is now a cap on the unreasonable fees local governments often charge. They get greedy. They think ‘hey, we can really take advantage,’ and it ends up that everybody gets hurt.”
Trump and Pai congratulated each other on early successes in 5G, but cautioned against resting while other countries advance in similar fashion. “We must not rest. The race is far from over. American companies must lead the world in cellular technology,” Trump said. “5G networks must be secure, they must be strong, they have to be guarded from the enemy — we do have enemies out there — and they will be.”
Pai concluded: “Today, 5G is a success story — an American success story…But in the race to 5G our early success is still early. We still need to do more and we will.”