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Questions of Public vs. Private Auction and Role of 5G Spectrum Dominate Conference on C-Band

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Photo of Commissioner Mike O'Rielly by Masha Abarinova

WASHINGTON, October 9, 2019 – Proposals to allocate C-Band spectrum to terrestrial wireless providers are getting close to  action decision-making. However, questions remains about whether to conduct a public or private auction for the right to use mid-band frequencies, as well as how much spectrum will be allocated for 5G deployments.

The Federal Communication Commission’s priority is to expedite the process and reallocate as much mid-band spectrum as possible, said Commissioner Michael O’Rielly at the Capitol Forum’s C-Band conference on Tuesday. He said that 300 megahertz of spectrum, would be an ideal amount for spectrum reallocation.

O’Rielly said that a C-Band private auction would be much like an auction conducted by the FCC. He said he was also optimistic about the agency’s other projects, such as the 2.5 Gigahertz (GHz) auction, the OnGo project of the Citizens’ Broadband Radio Service, and reallocation of Universal Service Fund dollars.

However, O’Rielly advised against providers getting “greedy” with expanding C-Band’s services. There are few things that the FCC has done without generating some backlash.

Panelists representing various telecom companies had conflicting opinions on the effectiveness of a public or private auction.

The future of connectivity rests in the hands of a bottom-up, market-led C-Band proposal, said Peter Pitsch, head of advocacy and government affairs at C-Band Alliance, or CBA. He argued that a private auction would ensure one accountable entity to preserve consumers’ economic interests and make spectrum more useful.

Small satellite providers don’t have to lose for 5G to win, Pitsch said. The C-Band Alliance can increase the 200 megahertz allocation in a timely and efficient manner. The alliance’s approach would allow C-Band to quickly enter the market equipped with a mechanism that determines its causes and effects on society.

The FCC has a long way to go before it can clear spectrum and make internet users whole, said Ross Lieberman, senior vice president of government affairs at ACA Connects. ACA’s 5G Plus would not only allow users to participate in the auction but provide reimbursements and incentive payments for the parties involved.

Without the fiber backbone necessary for mid-band spectrum, he said, 5G wireless service would be difficult to provide.

It’s an unavoidable fact that C-Band spectrum is critical for 5G mobility, said Colleen King, vice president of regulatory affairs at Charter Communications. More fiber will provide the path to reallocate spectrum for 5G and protect incumbents in the process.

Yet there is a lot of risk regarding the critical band of untested spectrum, she said. Private sales could raise objections and ultimately slow down reallocation.

Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at New America’s Open Technology Institute, said that a private auction is hardly in anyone’s interest, save for a few major carriers.

Any type of private sale, Calabrese said, would violate section 309(j)(1) of the Communications Act and would be a “horrible” precedent for policy purposes.

The FCC doesn’t need an elaborate auction to reallocate 200 megahertz of spectrum, he said. Advancing to future bands will require an auction to pay incumbents.

Some of the representatives of major cellular carriers have their doubts about the FCC’s ability to provide oversight in a public auction.

Other countries, especially in Asia, have already started allocating mid-band spectrum for 5G, said Brian Hendricks, vice president of policy at Nokia. It’s time for 5G action on America’s part.

The FCC is not poised to make improvements for 5G’s “sweet spot,” said Patrick Welsh, assistant vice president of wireless policy development at Verizon. What’s important is that CBA is uniquely situated to auction and clear spectrum.

A private auction with the necessary guardrails, he said, is essential for timely deployment of the C-band. If there is no incentive auction, small satellite providers would be unable to participate.

On the other hand, private companies have significantly fewer resources than the FCC, said Grant Spellmeyer, vice president of federal affairs and public policy at US Cellular. Even though a private auction could be shorter, what matters is that the bidding process maintains integrity and that sellers have an adequate chance of receiving spectrum.

Hence why the FCC needs to prioritize a straightforward, ascending clock auction, Spellmeyer said.

Moreover, the need for regulation doesn’t go away during a private auction, said Steve Sharkey, vice president of government affairs at T-Mobile. The CBA has been very vague about the details of their auction and will likely allow excess selling of spectrum, he said.

Until CBA makes clear how additional spectrum will be available, Sharkey said, a private sale doesn’t seem like a viable opportunity.

The main issue, Hendricks said, is how long the auction takes. But ultimately, it’s not a binary choice between the FCC having complete oversight and the agency having no role in the process. The FCC’s capability of understanding spectrum issues, he said, will prove beneficial in either a public or private reallocation.

 

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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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FCC Permit ‘Shot Clocks’ Provides ‘Predictability’ to Wireless Infrastructure Builds: T-Mobile

Shot clocks are important to industry players, argued T-Mobile’s Tim Halinski.

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Photo of Nancy Werner, partner at Bradley Werner, LLC.

WASHINGTON, November 8, 2022 – Panelists on a Federal Communications Bar Association web panel discussed Monday whether benefits of the Federal Communications Commission’s “shot clocks,” which limit how long states and local governments can review wireless infrastructure applications, outweigh the increased pressures they place on state and local governments.

A shot clock’s deadline puts pressure on city officials’ negotiations with providers over the terms of infrastructure projects, said Nancy Werner, partner at Bradley Werner, LLC, a telecommunications legal and consulting firm. They also “put a lot of pressure on local governments…to make sure (they) have a reason to deny” a provider’s application if an agreement cannot be readily reached, Werner added.

Tim Halinski, corporate counsel for T-Mobile, argued Monday that shot clocks are important to industry players, although he acknowledged the validity of Werner’s concerns. T-Mobile and other providers benefit from expeditious permitting processes, as they look to accelerate the build out of 5G wireless technology.

“There’s no one size fits all,” Halinski said, “But it’s at least the starting point and provides that predictability in deployment that we need.”

The comments come as the FCC fields comments on new standards that would streamline the division of costs between third party attachers and pole owners. Critics say the financial and time delay burden in getting access to these poles have slowed and will slow the expansion of broadband in the country.

In 2018, the FCC instituted shortened shot clocks for small wireless infrastructure projects: “60 days for review of an application for collocation…using a preexisting structure and 90 days for review of an application for attachment…using a new structure.” The commission said the new, limited timeframes would facilitate the deployment of wireless infrastructure.

The FCC’s revised shot clocks for small wireless deployments was but one portion of the agency’s so-called “Small Cell Order” of 2018, which aimed to promote the expansion of 5G. To accomplish this goal, however, the order sought to eliminate regulatory roadblocks by limiting state and local governments’ authorities over wireless infrastructure permitting and their own rights of way. This tactic drew criticisms from many experts and local officials.

Nonetheless, in August 2020, the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals largely upheld the order in City of Portland v. United States.

“(The Ninth Circuit’s) decision is a massive victory for U.S. leadership in 5G, our nation’s economy and American consumers,” said then–FCC Chairman Ajit Pai shortly after the ruling. “The court rightly affirmed the FCC’s efforts to ensure that infrastructure deployment critical to 5G…is not impeded by exorbitant fees imposed by state and local governments.”

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