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For 5G, Panelists Favor Limiting Local Control over Rights-of-Way and Not Reinstating Net Neutrality Rules

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WASHINGTON, July 6, 2019 — The successful growth of 5G networks will be best achieved through limiting municipalities’ control over wireless infrastructure and not reinstating rules that would require network neutrality, according to a Monday panel of the Digital Policy Institute, an organization affiliated with Ball State University.

Although the government plays an important role, the buildout of 5G will be primarily led by the private sector, said Stephanie Hall, director of innovation policy at the National Association of Manufacturers.

“The private sector is standing by and they’re ready to make the investment in the infrastructure,” she said. “The role that the federal government needs to play is to remove barriers to the buildout of that infrastructure.”

Panelists praised the Federal Communications Commission’s controversial decision to futher limit municipalities’ role in regulating what small cell and 5G towers are placed within their rights-of-way through the September 2018 infrastructure order.

The government should also ensure that net neutrality rules are not reinstated, said Fred Campbell, former Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau at the FCC. Burdening investment with additional regulations on the technology would create a disincentive for companies pursuing 5G development.

Former Wireless Technology Association Director Peter Rysavy agreed, pointing out that net neutrality regulations doesn’t make sense in a 5G world. Urgent messages need to have a higher priority, and it’s possible to do this in way that is fair and doesn’t undermine other applications.

For example, an urgent signal going to an autonomous car about the presence of a pedestrian should be prioritized over a person streaming a YouTube video, especially since the video streaming wouldn’t even be affected by the deprioritization.

The continued development of technology will force policy debates—like the one over net neutrality—to move in more thoughtful and nuanced directions, said Campbell.

5G is “significantly different” from previous cellular technologies “because it vastly increases the scope of applications and use cases that cellular technology can address,” said Rysavy.

It also has the ability to operate in a far greater range of spectrum. While most cellular technology today only runs up to about 2.5 gigahertz, said Rysavy, 5G currently supports up to 50 gigahertz and there are ongoing efforts to potentially expand this figure to more than 100.

Higher bands have much greater bandwidth available and using wider radio channels will lead to multiple gigabit per second speeds. These factors mean that 5G will play a much greater role in the economy than previous cellular technologies, according to Rysavy.

The combination of high speed and low latency will unlock a variety of new use cases and transform the entire manufacturing ecosystem, Hall said. 5G development will affect device makers and network equipment manufacturers as well as revolutionizing other industries by catalyzing innovations like autonomous vehicles and smart agriculture.

5G could also play a significant part in closing the digital divide. Wireless connections are inherently much less expensive than running wire, cable, or fiber to remote rural locations, and with line-of-sight propagation and directional antennas, a signal could be run for several miles.

Harnessing mid-band frequencies for 5G deployment would provide enough bandwidth for high throughput connections with a low enough frequency to deploy cells that aren’t too dense, resulting in an “excellent solution for rural broadband,” said Rysavy.

However, there needs to be more conversation about how 5G will actually be deployed to rural areas, said Campbell.

(Webcast screenshot of panel moderator Barry Umansky, Digital Policy Institute Senior Fellow.)

Reporter Em McPhie studied communication design and writing at Washington University in St. Louis, where she was a managing editor for the student newspaper. In addition to agency and freelance marketing experience, she has reported extensively on Section 230, big tech, and rural broadband access. She is a founding board member of Code Open Sesame, an organization that teaches computer programming skills to underprivileged children.

5G

Innovation Fund’s Global Approach May Improve O-RAN Deployment: Commenters

The $1.5 billion Innovation Fund should be used to promote global adoption, say commenters.

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Illustration about intelligent edge computing from Deloitte Insights

WASHINGTON, February 2, 2023 – A global approach to funding open radio access networks will improve its success in the United States, say commenters to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

The NTIA is seeking comment on how to implement the $1.5 billion appropriated to the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund as directed by the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. The grant program is primarily responsible for supporting the promotion and deployment of open, interoperable, and standards-based radio access networks. 

Radio access networks provide critical technology to connect users to the mobile network over radio waves. O-RAN would create a more open ecosystem of network equipment that would otherwise be reliant on proprietary technology from a handful of companies.  

Global RAN

Commenters to the NTIA argue that in order for O-RAN to be successful, it must be global. The Administration must take a “global approach” when funding projects by awarding money to those companies that are non-U.S.-based, said mobile provider Verizon in its comments.  

To date, new entrants into the RAN market have been the center for O-RAN development, claimed wireless service provider, US Cellular. The company encouraged the NTIA to “invest in proven RAN vendors from allied nations, rather than focusing its efforts on new entrants and smaller players that lack operational expertise and experience.” 

Korean-based Samsung Electrontics added that by allowing trusted entities with a significant U.S. presence to compete for project funding and partner on those projects, the NTIA will support standardizing interoperability “evolution by advancing a diverse global market of trusted suppliers in the U.S.” 

O-RAN must be globally standardized and globally interoperable, Verizon said. Funding from the Public Wireless Innovation Fund will help the RAN ecosystem mature as it desperately needs, it added.  

Research and development

O-RAN continues to lack the maturity that is needed for commercial deployment, agreed US Cellular in its comments. The company indicated that the complexity and costliness of system integration results from there being multiple vendors that would need to integrate but are not ready for full integration. 

Additionally, interoperability with existing RAN infrastructure requires bi-lateral agreements, customized integration, and significant testing prior to deployment, the comment read. The complicated process would result in O-RAN increasing the cost of vendor and infrastructure deployment, claimed US Cellular, directly contrary to the goals of O-RAN. 

Several commenters urged the NTIA to focus funding projects on research and development rather than subsidizing commercial deployments.  

The NTIA is already fully engaged in broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas through its Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, said Verizon. The Innovation Fund will better advance its goals by funding projects that accelerate the solving of remaining O-RAN technical challenges that continue to delay its deployment, it continued. 

US Cellular argued that the NTIA should “spur deployment of additional independent testing and certification lab facilities… where an independent third party can perform end to end testing, conformance, and certification.” 

The Innovation Fund should be used to focus on technology development and solving practical challenges, added wireless trade association, CTIA. Research can focus on interoperability, promotion of equipment that meets O-RAN specifications, and projects that support hardware design and energy efficiency, it said. 

Furthermore, CTIA recommended that the Administration avoid interfering in how providers design their networks to encourage providers to adopt O-RAN in an appropriate manner for their company. Allowing a flexible, risk-based approach to O-RAN deployments will “help ensure network security and stability,” it wrote. 

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CES 2023: Commissioner Starks Highlights Environmental Benefits of 5G Connectivity

Starks also said federal housing support should be linked to the Affordable Connectivity Program.

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Photo of FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks (left) and CTA’s J. David Grossman

LAS VEGAS, January 7, 2023 – Commissioner Geoffrey Starks of the Federal Communications Commission spoke at the Consumer Electronics Show Saturday, touting connectivity assistance for individuals who benefit from housing assistance as well as the potential environmental benefits of 5G.

The FCC-administered Affordable Connectivity Program subsidizes monthly internet bills and one-time devices purchases for low-income Americans. Although many groups are eligible – e.g., Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program enrollees – Starks said his attention is primarily on those who rely on housing support.

“If you are having trouble putting food on your table, you should not have to worry about connectivity as well,” Starks said. “If we are helping you to get housed, we should be able to connect that house,” he added.

Environmental benefits of 5G

In addition to economic benefits, 5G-enabled technologies will offer many environmental benefits, Starks argued. He said the FCC should consider how to “ensure folks do more while using less,” particularly in the spheres of spectral and energy efficiency.

“This is going to take a whole-of-nation (approach),” Starks said. “When you talk to your local folks – mayors – state and other federal partners, making sure that they know smart cities (and) smart grid technology…making sure that we’re all unified on thinking about this is exactly where we need to go to in order to drive down the carbon emissions.”

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CES 2023: 5G Will Drive Safer Transportation

More comprehensive data-sharing is made possible by the reduced latency of 5G, CES hears.

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Photo of Aruna Anand, Durga Malladi, and Derek Peterson (left to right)

LAS VEGAS, January 5, 2023 – Panelists at the Consumer Electronics Show 2023 on Thursday touted the potential for 5G to make transportation safer by enabling information sharing between vehicles and with infrastructure.

5G is expected to expand connectivity by attaching small cell connectivity equipment on various city infrastructure, including traffic lights and bus shelters. 

More comprehensive data-sharing is made possible by the reduced latency of 5G, said Aruna Anand, president and CEO of Continental Automotive Systems Inc., referring to connectivity communications times. Anand argued that making relevant information available to multiple vehicles is key to improving safety.

“We give more information about the surroundings of the vehicle to the car to enable [it] to make better decisions,” Anand said.

Durga Malladi, senior vice president and general manager for cellular modems and infrastructure at chip maker Qualcomm, described a 5G-enabled “true ubiquitous data space solution” in which vehicles and smart infrastructure – e.g., traffic lights and stop signs – communicate with one another.

Asked for predictions, Malladi forecasted an increased “blend” of communications and artificial intelligence technologies. Anand said 6G is expected to emerge by 2028 and make its way to vehicle technology by 2031.

Both realized and predicted innovations in 5G-enabled technologies have driven calls for expanded spectrum access, from private and public sectors alike. The Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the respective overseers of non-federally and federally-used spectrum, in August agreed to an updated memorandum of understanding on spectrum management

Although relatively new, this agreement has already been touted by officials.

The FCC, whose spectrum auction authority Congress extended in December, made several moves last year to expand spectrum access.

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