By Richard Arneson
It’s a rather un-Republication notion, but it’s resurfacing again after having first been mentioned, or rather leaked, in a White House email in early 2018—government involvement in the race to 5G.
This plan calls for taking wireless spectrum from the U.S. DoD (Department of Defense) and, through a 3rd party, making it available to wireless providers at a reduced rate. Many believe it’s a political move to curry favor with rural voters, who would get 5G faster with a little nudge from Uncle Sam.
According to Brad Parscale, Trump’s Campaign Manager for the 2020 election, “America must harness the power of capital markets and private sector to fund and build a state-of-art wholesale 5G network that is a model for the world. The government has underutilized spectrum it should share for the purpose. Americans deserve access to affordable wireless.”
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr is no more enamored by this recent proposal than he was when the memo was leaked a year ago. He cites a lack of government involvement as a primary reason that the United States won the race to 4G. In it, he said, spectrum was freed up for commercial use and infrastructure rules were modernized. He sees no reason why the same won’t work for 5G. He fears that government involvement could limit competition and result in its control over the Internet. Carr believes that government-led spectrum wholesaling would result in wireless providers limiting their investment once spectrum becomes more commoditized. It’s not that he doesn’t think the government should play a role in 5G, but in partnership with providers and standards bodies roles, not in ownership of spectrum.
Wireless carriers, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint have yet to weigh in on this proposal, but they’ll likely align with their feelings from a year ago. They don’t like it and don’t want it. The leaked 5G plan from a year ago involved the U.S. government building a brand spankin’ new wireless network.
It’s a no-go, says former National Security Council official
Robert Spalding sees the benefits of government-led championing of 5G, not surprising considering he wrote the leaked memo while an official in the National Security Council. But as the current senior fellow at the Hudson Institute focused primarily on U.S.—China relations, he says it won’t happen, period, because doing so would require the military to share its airwaves.
“At the end of the day,” says Spalding, “An agency like the Department of Defense would have to step up and say this is absolutely required for national security. I know that DoD has no interest in using any kind of department resources in making this is a priority.”
Mobility questions? These folks have the answers
If you have questions about your organization’s current mobility strategy (or the one you’d like to implement) and how 5G will affect it, contact GDT’s Mobility Solutions experts at Mobility_Team@gdt.com. They’re comprised of experienced solutions architects and engineers who have implemented mobility solutions for some of the largest organizations in the world. They’d love to hear from you.