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Coronavirus Roundup: Making the Most of TV White Space, 5.9 GHz Waivers, Avoiding Huawei Gear on 5G

Elijah Labby

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Photo of Louis Peraertz courtesy WISPA

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association on Monday filed comments to the FCC with guidance on taking full advantage of so-called TV “white space” technology.

The recommendations are intended to increase the appeal of available technologies to service providers and device manufacturers by loosening existing adjacent-channel admission standards and facilitating the use of directional antennas in the FCC’s white spaces database.

Vice President of Policy for WISPA Louis Peraertz said that if implemented, these changes would mean drastic improvements in the use of TVWS. "These changes would result in a more attractive service to providers, device makers and third-party services – injecting needed competition into the ecosystem," he said.

COVID-19 has spotlighted the necessity of bridging broadband internet gaps across the country. The proposed changes, according to WISPA, will increase the availability of internet services in hard-to-reach areas.

FCC announces positive special temporary authority results

The FCC announced Monday that its decision to give some internet service providers temporary access to the 5.9 GHz spectrum has increased broadband availability for Americans in rural areas.

The access, called Special Temporary Authority, has been granted to more than 100 WISPs operating in rural and suburban communities and is helping to meet heightened need amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai spoke favorably of the waiver authority, saying that "American consumers are relying more than ever on broadband, so I'm pleased that 5.9 GHz spectrum is helping fixed wireless broadband providers deliver faster and more efficient service for consumers."

Several WISPs have reported significantly increased need in the wake of the coronavirus. More than a dozen providers located in rural and suburban areas across the country reported increased broadband usage as well as reduced congestion as a result of the temporary access.

Policymakers and industry leaders rally around software-based 5G approach

As U.S.-China tensions intensify in the wake of COVID-19, legislators and tech companies are developing software-based 5G networks that do not require Chinese involvement, Axios reports.

Questions about the origins of COVID-19 as well as the Chinese government's role in downplaying the threat have placed the relationship between government and industry in the two countries on rocky soil. Axios reports that a newly-formed group of more than 30 technology companies including Microsoft and Facebook has formed to lobby the U.S. government to develop new open 5G networks that do not require gear from Huawei or Nokia, among others.

The White House, as well a bipartisan group of legislators, are in support of the proposal. In April, Reps. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Greg Walden, R-Ohio, introduced legislation that would give up to $750 million to develop open networks, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence introduced a similar bill.

Although there are some notable critics of the idea, including Attorney General William Barr, steps are already being taken to transition to open 5G networks. Dish Network has committed to building such a system nationwide with network software company Mavenir.

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