The moment that 4G wireless released, questions about 5G began. This is the nature of the game and it appears that this week, Thursday to be precise, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will show the world his proposal for what he and the commission see for 5G. If it’s passed it will pave the way for the FCC to open large parts of the high-brand spectrum which will blow away the speeds reached by 4G and LTE.
Could the U.S. be the first to get there?
“If the Commission approves my proposal next month, the United States will be the first country in the world to open up high-band spectrum for 5G networks and applications,” Wheeler is expected to point out when he delivers his proposal and speech on Thursday. “And that’s damn important because it means US companies will be first out of the gate.”
The FCC will not be involved in developing 5G standards, a standard that does not exist. He and his colleagues know to simply open up the high-band spectrum and let the private sector fill in the gaps until a standard essentially works itself out through cooperation and competition.
Frankly, it’s a great case of a government agency stepping back. That’s not to say for a moment that I think the EPA does a bad job and the continuing war against dirty energy like coal is just fine with me. Suffice is to say I don’t know any coal miners any more than I know any coal magnates. Calls by many to eliminate the agency are disgraceful and just a blatant acceptance of money from outside interests by politicians using the guise of “over regulation” as a banner to explain their shortsightedness.
Wheeler is very clear that there is no standard and won’t be until the FCC opens up the aforementioned spectrum. “If anyone tells you they know the details of what 5G will deliver, walk the other way,” Wheeler said.
“Unlike some countries, we do not believe we should spend the next couple of years studying what 5G should be, how it should operate, and how to allocate spectrum, based on those assumptions,” Wheeler’s prepared remarks say. “…Instead, we will make ample spectrum available and then rely on a private sector-led process for producing technical standards best suited for those frequencies and use cases.”
Government efficiency? The hell you say?
We’re talking blinding speeds compared to 4G
The FCC Chairman also pointed out the need for near immediate responsiveness that is measured in fractions of milliseconds for use in things like remote surgery where such response times are vital: “The surgeon’s scalpel needs to be immediately responsive, not a blink later.”
Obviously when bidding begins on the new spectrum begins, major tech companies will lead the charge and lease most of the spectrum. However, Wheeler’s proposal which will include and unlicensed space in the spectrum which will be open to the public potentially speeding up home and office Wi-Fi significantly.
While 10 to 100 times with regards to speed is cause for a bit of mouth agape drooling, don’t expect the fantastic immediately and there will be hurdles to overcome namely a signal that doesn’t travel very far compared to 4G and struggles with walls. That, quite simply, means a massive rollout of new cell towers to focus and aim the signal at users rather than an area.
Or as Wheeler says, “There are major hurdles that 5G will have to overcome.”
While the FCC chief’s proposal won’t be made public until Thursday, rest assured that quite a bit of the proposal has already been shared with telecom giants. Last year AT&T announced that it would begin 5G testing this summer and Verizon has already begun its own testing. They are surely not the only ones interested with Samsung, Google interested along with expected and existing startups like Starry.
While the proposal will come on Thursday, the commission isn’t expected to vote until July when it meets for the thumbs up or thumbs down with the former the considerably more likely outcome. The spectrum cannot be opened until that vote is affirmed and even then it won’t happen overnight. In fact, the Spectrum Frontiers proceeding could take years. Likely you’re looking at 2020 before 5G deployment but it’s clear, or at least it will be after the vote, that the FCC is interested in getting out of the way rather than being a pothole in the road to innovation.