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Broadband Roundup: House Democrats Release Infrastructure Framework, T-Mobile’s Pink, 5G’s Specialness

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Photo of House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal

The chairs of three House committees on Wednesday released a framework for a five-year, $760 billion investment in infrastructure that would address some of the country’s most urgent infrastructure needs, including broadband infrastructure.

The framework put forth by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, D-Mass., would bolster the federal government in helping communities make investments that it described as “smarter, safer, and made to last.”

The framework sets a path toward zero carbon pollution, ensures so-called “green” transportation system, modernizes 911 networks, and expands broadband internet access, adoption for unserved and underserved rural, suburban, and urban communities. The framework also imposes Davis-Bacon requirements and “buy America” provisions.

“It’s past time to for transformational investments to make our infrastructure smarter, safer, and resilient to climate change,” said DeFazio.

“The deficiencies of our roads, bridges, transit, water systems, broadband, and electrical grids hold our nation’s economy back,” said Neal. “When we invest in infrastructure, it results in a significant economic multiplier – with each dollar spent, our nation becomes more competitive and prosperous.”

Although most of the major communications industry trade groups did not release comments, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association said that they applauded the proposal. “If enacted into law, it will go far in bridging the debilitating digital divide.  The challenge of eradicating the digital divide is particularly acute in rural areas, where nearly 20 million Americans lack adequate access to essential broadband, hampering widespread prosperity in the heartland,” WISPA said in a statement.

“Though the infrastructure plan does not lay out any specifics, we hope leadership recognizes that spectrum is infrastructure – just like new roads, bridges and public utilities – and focuses on encouraging federal officials to unleash more of it for consumers,” said WISPA.

The text of the framework is here; a Factsheet is here.

T-Mobile corporate parent seeks to trademark the color pink

A blog post by Michael Rosen of the American Enterprise Institute noted how Deutsche Telekom, parent company of T-Mobile, has sued an insurance company called Lemonade for using a “confusingly similar” shade of magenta.

DT asserts that its shade of magenta is so evocative of its brand that Lemonade’s use of it, even in a different market, could confuse a consumer into calling upon the associations it has with T-Mobile (whether good or bad) to sell Lemonade’s product.

Lemonade’s CEO Daniel Schreiber called the injunction DT has obtained against Lemonade from a German court as “corporate bully tactics.”

Proponents of trademark freedom on social media arranged the panel highlighting the breadth of color range to which DT believes it is legally entitled.

The author of the blog post then drew a comparison to the case in which British Startup Surrey Nanonsystems engineered the blackest black ever perceived (it absorbs 99.96 percent of all light) and licensed it as the exclusive property of famous artist Anish Kapoor.

Lower latency and higher capacity combines to make the 5G special

The wireless standard 5G’s most overlooked advantage is its “much lower latency” and its “much greater capacity,” according to a blog post of ETI Software Solutions.

The enhanced capacity will help give rise to the internet of things through a “massive uptick in devices and sensors connected to the network,” writes the author, citing wireless and near-instantaneous connection between streetlight to parking spaces to even livestock as a result of these overshadowed benefits.

These connections could provide the path to the future, serving as the bedrock for technologies like autonomous drones and automated factories.

The author also made a point to outline hope for rural areas, highlighting a deal between Parallel Wireless and the Competitive Carriers Association to offer new strategies for bringing 5G to the sparsely populated.

5G

CES 2022: 5G, Aviation Crisis a Problem of Federal Coordination, Observers Say

The hope is coordination problems will be relieved when the Senate confirms NTIA head.

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John Godfrey, senior vice president of public policy and acting head of U.S. public affairs at Samsung

LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2022 – The possible near collision of 5G signals and aircraft altimeters emerged out of a lack of coordination on the federal government’s part to bring all relevant information to the Federal Communications Commission before it auctioned off the spectrum that has now been put on hold for safety precautions, observers said Thursday.

This week, Verizon and AT&T agreed to delay the rollout of their 5G services using the C-band spectrum surrounding airports after the Federal Aviation Administration raised the alarm for months about possible interference of the wireless signals with aircraft, which use their own radios to safely land planes.

But the issue could’ve been resolved back in 2020, when the FCC proposed to repurpose a portion of the band to allow for wireless use, some said on a panel discussing 5G Thursday in Las Vegas.

“After the FCC had adopted the rules, auctioned off the spectrum, raised over $80 billion and deployment began and then additional information that apparently had not been brought to the FCC before comes over…that’s not good for the country,” said John Godfrey, senior vice president of public policy and acting head of U.S. public affairs at Samsung, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

“The time to have that information be disclosed and discussed and analyzed is when the FCC is conducting the rulemaking,” Godfrey said, adding the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration should, as federal telecom rep, be spearheading coordination efforts between the FAA and the FCC on telecommunications matters.

“I think it’s their job as the leaders of telecom policy in the administration to facilitate bringing the full federal government to the table in a timely manner,” Godfrey added.

Asad Ramzanali, legislative director for Democratic California Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, said that the fallout of the aviation issue has shown that, “Looking backwards, I do think this is a failure. This is a failure in government to be able to coordinate at the right time…when there’s a process, those impacted should be participating — that is the role of the NTIA.”

NTIA head confirmation ‘should be a priority’

And the hope is that such coordination issues can be averted in the future with the confirmation of a permanent head of the NTIA, said Ramzanali. President Joe Biden nominated Alan Davidson in October to be the next permanent head of the agency, which has had temporary figures fill in the role since the resignation in May 2019 of the last full-time head, David Redl.

“That should be a priority,” Ramzanali said of pushing Davidson through. “The NTIA is doling out $42.5 billion of that $65 billion [from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act]. The NTIA is supposed to deal with those types of issues. They have brilliant people there, but this is the kind of leadership that they should be in the middle of.

“And this isn’t a recent NTIA thing,” Ramzanali added. “This has lasted many years, especially in the prior administration where the NTIA wasn’t doing this part of it — coordinating with other agencies.

“I’m hopeful with Alan Davidson presumably getting in soon that we won’t see that kind of issue.”

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CES 2022: Educating Consumers About 5G Will Encourage Wider Adoption

Currently, consumers are not being provided the information they need to make the leap, a consultant said.

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Sally Lange Witkowski, founder of business consulting firm Slang Consulting

LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2021 – Educating consumers about 5G is necessary to achieving wider adoption in its upcoming deployment in the United States.

At Wednesday’s CES “Path to A Better 5G World” session, industry leaders discussed how 5G will change the digital landscape by offering new experiences for businesses and consumers.

Sally Lange Witkowski, founder of business consulting firm Slang Consulting, said that companies should educate consumers about the benefits of 5G.

“Some consumers don’t even know 5G exists,” she said. “They believe faster is better,” but said that consumers don’t know about 5G’s wider applications. “Consumers should want to have [5G] because of how innovators and entrepreneurs will use the technology.”

Slang’s research shows that consumers are only willing to pay up to $5 more per month for 5G service. “It’s not about the hype, it’s about the usability,” Witkowski added. She noted that people are living longer and older Americans are growing old without the necessary digital skills to thrive in our new ecosystem.

“A child born today has a one in two chance of living till 100,” she said.  Educating consumers about 5G’s benefits can help the elderly prepare to participate in the revolution.

Witkowski also said closed hardware software ecosystems, sometimes referred to as “walled gardens,” prevent consumers from discovering new experiences.

“The really large organizations have a hard time innovating. Big corporations are built to scale. The ability to reach out to entrepreneurs to access creative thinking is important,” Witkowski added. “The pandemic changed a lot [for technology companies]. They are going to have to embrace something they don’t normally embrace,” like the fact that another company may be better positioned to create solutions.

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FCC Commissioner Carr Details Steps Needed for 5G, Says Talk of 6G ‘Almost Too Early’

The commissioner also said he thinks Biden will support Big Tech contributions to the Universal Service Fund.

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Commissioner Brendan Carr

WASHINGTON, December 9, 2021 – Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr says that proper planning on increased spectrum release and infrastructure reform is necessary for the FCC to ensure a smooth rollout of 5G technology.

Carr specifically critiqued the current infrastructure reform approaches of President Joe Biden’s administration, saying that the administration’s current plan seems to be to make large sums of funding available without planning extensively for infrastructure modernization.

At Thursday’s Media Institute event during which Carr spoke, the commissioner also said he thinks it is “almost too early” to start thinking about 6G rollout that newly re-confirmed Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has said is on the table sooner rather than later. Carr emphasized that focusing on 6G too early could distract from planning necessary for 5G’s success.

Regardless, Carr expressed that the U.S. is in a good shape to effectively harness 5G and compete with China’s use of the technology, owing to an American 5G platform that he called the strongest in the world as well as to American innovation in the area.

In terms of what else is unresolved with regard to 5G, Carr says it is not yet clear what the flagship new application development will be with 5G. He believes this may become much clearer as very low power Wi-Fi technology begins to allow for creative uses of 5G.

Big Tech contribution to Universal Service Fund?

Also during Thursday’s event, Carr said that he believes the Biden administration will support requiring big tech corporations to contribute to the Universal Service Fund, citing lead Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee Sen. Ben Ray Luján’s support for the proposal. Carr as well as key Republicans have also demonstrated support for this proposal in the past, which would provide monetary support for a fund that provides basic telecommunications services to remote and low-income communities.

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