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In A Debate Over Municipal Rights-Of-Way, Industry and Public Representatives Attempt to Find A Path Forward



December 15, 2020 — In a spirited debate about one of the central policy issues surrounding the deployment of 5G and small cell deployment, Wednesday’s Broadband Breakfast Live Online featured both municipalities and wireless industry officials each expressing concerns and grievances.

To realize the promise of 5G, far more base stations, or wireless infrastructure facilities, will be necessary to deploy due to limitations associated with mid-band spectrum and faster promised throughput.

Representatives for the municipalities said that their rights-of-way aren’t being respected. Industrial officials said that cities were over-complicating the need for rapid deployment.

5G facilities and towers may not be as big as previous generations of wireless technology. Still, the need for far more facilities has already created tensions between municipalities and wireless providers over rights-of-way.

Earlier in his term as chairman, the current Federal Communications Commission under Ajit Pai issued a wireless infrastructure order that attempted to “remove regulatory barriers” that inhibit the deployment of 5G infrastructure.

The FCC also took action, prompted by a petition from the Wireless Industry Association, under Section 6409 of the 2012 Spectrum Act, to allow wireless service providers to collocate wireless infrastructure, or allow industry to add one or more antenna to pre-existing towers.

“The FCC has tilted the table too much in favor of industry and not enough for communities,” said Gerry Lederer, partner at the law firm Best Best & Krieger. “We’ll see whether a new FCC will level that table more.”

Cities claim that wireless providers are pushing too hard, too fast

Angelina Panettieri, legislative director of technology and communications at the National League of Cities, which represents more than 19,000 cities, towns, and villages across the U.S., said that she was working hard to overturn the FCC’s preemption order.

“I don’t think the issue is local governments not doing enough to speed processes,” said Panettieri, “this is a consequence of our collective failure as a nation to ensure we have adequate infrastructure and affordable access, which has ended up falling on local leaders.”

“At the same time, these communities are facing a faster and deeper cratering of local government funding than we’ve seen since the Great Depression. Many city halls are closed on Friday’s to save money,” she said. “Next year, without significant federal aid, there will be a hollowing out of the local public sector workforce, that will take a decade or more to recover from.”

“Cities and school districts have really moved mountains, shaken the change out of their couch cushions, and partnered with internet service providers to get devices and subsidized internet connections out to students and families,” said Panettieri.

She said that 5G is a tool and not a silver bullet, and that cities need to encourage fiber deeper into the neighborhoods as much as possible.

“We need to stop the fib that 5G is going to address the rural divide,” added Lederer. “If you don’t have fiber, you aren’t going to get 5G; 5G is not the near-term answer.”

Industry counters that speed is necessary to win the 5G deployment race

In response, industry representatives maintained that a speedy turnaround is necessary to win the race to 5G deployment against China.

John Howes, counsel of government affairs for the Wireless Infrastructure Association began his remarks by highlighting another recent FCC achievement: Kicking off the C-Band auction on December 8, generating $1.9 billion in proceeds in its first day. It is the FCC’s largest auction of midband spectrum to date, offering up 280 megahertz of important swaths of 5G spectrum in the 3.7-3.98 GigaHertz (GHz) band.

“The auction is critically important to furthering 5G connectivity across the U.S.” as it offers a relatively quick timeline for potential 5G deployments in the next few years, he said

Part of the effort, he said, involves collaboration. “We have to work with state and local government partners,” said Howes. “There is a race to 5G and it is critical we lead the way.”

To give a sense of the work required to roll out these advanced networks, Timothy Vogel, senior managing associate of general counsel for Verizon Wireless, detailed the company’s attempt to roll out networks around Phoenix.

“Just looking around Pheonix, we see Avondale, Scottsdale, and Paradise Valley — we see the 26 localities that surround Phoenix. To have to come up with different processes in each of the 26 — different fees [and] different rules slows down the process and drives capital to other areas.”

Finding a path to move forward with fiber and 5G deployment

“Certainly there are disagreements,” said moderator Drew Clark, editor and publisher of Broadband Breakfast, but “How can the process be improved? What are successful cities doing now?”

Vogel championed matching the needs of communities with the reality of business to align expectation and understanding, improve existing processes, and address stakeholders’ concerns.

Panettieri pushed back on the idea that the deployment process should be completely universalized, saying that it would likely not be achievable. She instead called for industry to embrace regional collaboration, as has worked with similar utilities and older technologies.

Pannettieri said cities that have thought proactively about street-scape, design, and digital equity are of the best positioned to manage 5G deployment. “Cities like San Jose, which have undergone serious planning around digital equity, know where the need is greatest and what is causing their digital divide — infrastructure, tech literacy, devices, or affordability,” she said.

In defense of maintaining cities’ aesthetics, Lederer accused the private sector of lying about the omnipresence of 5G wireless infrastructure equipment, saying “It would be nice if industry would tell the truth about size. Small cells are not ‘small’, stop going to state legislatures and city councils will small boxes and saying ‘this is a small cell’, and forgetting about the other 28 cubic feet that” come along with it.

In the end, the industry and the municipal representatives agreed that a nationalized approach to 5G deployment would not work.

“We’ll never get to the point where everyone is doing the same thing. People care about how their cities look, that’s why they want to live there,” said Panettieri, adding that it is “important to maintain the authority of the city,” as they have the potential to be good conveners.

The discussion is just one of six events in the event series, “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G,” that is sponsored by Samsung Electronic America.

‘A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G’ sponsored by:

Events in A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G” include:

  • Wednesday, October 14, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: The Hype and the Reality of 5G
    • This opening panel will set the stage for Broadband Breakfast Live Online’s consideration of the policy, technology and practical questions around the 5G wireless standard. What is 5G, and why is there so much buzz about it? How much of an improvement is it over prior generations of wireless? In other words: What is real, and what is hype? How the issues of trusted partners, rights-of-way deployment, and spectrum policy interact? Where is 5G seeing early successes, and what are the stumbling blocks?”
  • Wednesday, October 28, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: National Security and Trusted Partners
    • This panel will consider the global landscape for the 5G equipment ecosystem. It will consider issues in core networks, radio access networks and in handset equipment. How has the global landscape changed? Will 5G benefit from – or suffer because of – a new Cold War with China? How are American companies reacting to federal government initiatives for trusted partners? Where can the U.S. turn for solutions and alternatives to Chinese manufacturers?
  • Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: A Case Study of Transformative Apps in the Enterprise
    • 5G is seeing its first real successes in the enterprise marketplace. To glimpse the future more accurately, Broadband Breakfast Live Online will consider case studies of applications in enterprise environments. What technologies and processes bring 5G success to the business marketplace? What needs to happen to bring 5G successes to the consumer marketplace?
  • Wednesday, December 9, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: Wireless Infrastructure, Municipal Rights-of-Way and the 5G Rural Fund
    • To realize the promise of 5G, far more base stations — wireless infrastructure facilities — will be necessary. 5G facilities and towers may not be as big as in previous generations of wireless technology. Still, the need for far more facilities has already created tensions with municipalities over rights-of-way. How can these conflicts be minimized? What are smart cities already doing to expedite wireless infrastructure deployment? Can the process be improved?
  • Wednesday, January 13, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: The Adoption and Use of 5G Broadband
    • What are some of the likely drivers of 5G equipment and services? How have existing consumer use cases been received? What can we expect from 5G technology in 2021?
  • Wednesday, February 10, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: Spectrum Policies to Advance Better Broadband
    • More than simply the next generation of wireless technology, 5G deployments make use of radio frequencies from an extremely wide range. For example, some 5G deployment are using mid-band spectrum between 3.4 GigaHertz (GHz) and 6 GHz. But 5G networks also promise tap into spectrum between 24 GHz and 100 GHz. It deploys these millimeter bands using network slicing and other advanced wireless tools. What new spectrum policies are necessary for 5G to flourish?

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.


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.



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.



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.



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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