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Telecom Policy

White House Announces 5G Wavelength Auction

Eager to show progress in the global race to build next-generation wireless networks, President Donald Trump unveiled plans Friday to get more 5G airwaves into the hands of mobile phone companies.

“We cannot allow any other country to out-compete the United States in this powerful industry of the future,” President Trump said at a White House press event where he was flanked by FCC Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and hard-hat wearing communications workers.

What President Trump didn’t say is that the millimeter waves to be auctioned to carriers have major limitations. While they can handle an enormous number of wireless connections simultaneously, the signals can only travel a few blocks and can be jammed by materials as flimsy as tree foliage. Wireless carriers, particularly Verizon and AT&T, are also desperate to get access to so-called mid-band spectrum which can deliver signals that penetrate walls and travel over longer distances.

Meanwhile, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, one of two Democrats on the five-member commission, issued a statement today saying that the Trump administration has done more harm than good in the race to 5G. “From imposing tariffs on 5G equipment to alienating allies on 5G security to falling behind the rest of the world on critical mid-band spectrum, the White House has yet to offer a workable plan for U.S. leadership.”    

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