June 18, 2020 — The Federal Communications Commission’s October C-Band auction will be a crucial step toward developing America’s 5G capabilities, said Shane Tews, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Speaking at Wednesday event on “The Urgency of Spectrum in Reopening America” hosted by the American Consumer Institute, Tews said the technology has incredible upsides and will greatly improve the speed and efficiency of communications, but there are barriers to its rollout.
“5G has the ability to have much faster, lower latency equipment,” she explained, “but that means you actually have to put physical equipment in place.”
Tews noted that the C-Band, which sits between 3.7 GigaHertz (GHz) and 4.2 GHz, is precious territory of radio-frequency spectrum. Because of this, she said, it can be difficult to get government agencies to open up the space to private industry.
“Part of the challenge is getting these government entities to be persuaded to move up or down in that space,” she said.
She also said that in the same way the government is reluctant to loosen their hold on the band, they are also hesitant to describe their activity in it.
“We’re not completely clear on what the government’s doing because they don’t have to tell us,” she said.
“I call it the black box problem, where you go in and talk to the Department of Defense... and you say, ‘You’ve had the capability to use it for 20 years...We could get you guys to be a collaborative effort.’ And they just say, ‘No, it's top-secret stuff — can’t tell you.’”
Tews claimed that the agencies have a vested interest in holding onto their spots in the band, which has led to friction, as in the case of the Ligado debacle and the DoD’s subsequent public anger.
“It has the ability to bring in probably a very large number for the government because it’s the sweet spot for what we need for next-generation networks,” she said.
Despite this, Tews predicted that the auction would be a great opportunity for private industry to develop technologies that will help to close the digital divide.
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