facebook linkedin twitter

FCC Commissioners Debate Upcoming 5G Digital Divide

March 18, 2020 by Kate Michael

WASHINGTON – Federal Communications Commissioners spoke about the nation’s race to 5G at a New America Open Technology Institute discussion held virtually on Tuesday afternoon. Panelists offered thoughts on heading off a 5G digital divide with affordable connectivity for all.

“5G wireless networks are coming,” said New America’s Michael Calabrese, adding that the FCC has auctioned megahertz of high- and mid-band licensed spectrum to make it happen. 

“Building out 5G will be costly, will take time, and likely will happen first in urban areas. 

“Over the past few years, the race to 5G has focused primarily on auctioning off licensed spectrum, but making 5G wireless connectivity available and affordable to all Americans will depend on opening large new bands of unlicensed spectrum capable of supporting the next generation of gigabit fast Wi-Fi, or Wi-Fi 6.”

“We need to move fast,” said FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, who admitted that the race to 5G has been focused on mobile carrier networks. “We’re still going to need licensed spectrum, but [we also] need a full portfolio of unlicensed spectrum. They complement each other.”

Unlicensed spectrum refers to small sections of the radio spectrum in which anyone is allowed to transmit, including low-power transmitters and Wi-Fi. Some examples are cordless phones, baby monitors, garage door openers, wireless home security systems, and keyless automobile entry systems.

Today, Wi-Fi is so prevalent and necessary for essential innovation that current Wi-Fi bands are experiencing congestion and would be insufficient to power 5G capable apps and services. It has been 20 years since new mid-band spectrum has been made available despite exponential growth in traffic, and the FCC realizes that more spectrum is needed.

Wi-Fi 6, the latest designation and tech transition, could assist in making sure capacity exists to serve all segments of society. In fact, Pricilla Argires, public policy manager for connectivity at Facebook calls Wi-Fi 6 “key to economic growth and development,” as estimates suggest Wi-Fi’s value in the United States will reach $993 million as early as 2023.

“As a nation, we’re heading online like never before,” said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “Millions are told to go online for class — like this experiment in online learning we’re experiencing right now — and we’re going to see the growth of the ‘intelligent edge.’ 

“A new infrastructure with Wi-Fi 6 makes sure no child is left offline and creates a new way of thinking about machine learning.”

The FCC was anticipated to vote next month on measures to share underutilized spectrum. One proposal to offset the connectivity crunch was to allow Wi-Fi 6 to share spectrum across the entire 6 GHz band. The creation of a 6 GHz band would mean seven new 150 MHz channels.

“Seventy percent of 5G traffic is expected at some point to be offloaded to Wi-Fi networks,” said Rosenworcel. “We’re going to have super fast licensed networks — think of it like being on a highway — and then getting off onto a gravel road.

“Wi-Fi’s full potential may only be realized with access to more unlicensed spectrum. Six GHz spectrum is a perfect fit.”

Wi-Fi 6 is not only a complement to home broadband, but is also a critical complement to 5G, working hand-in-hand for uses like HD video, Wi-Fi calling, smart home devices, hotspot access, automation of citywide services, and health monitoring devices.

But 5G wireless services are undoubtedly going to deploy unevenly. Mobile carrier 5G may be limited initially to dense urban and high-traffic areas that justify high build-out costs.

“It’s a fact of nature that private sector actors will choose to deploy first in areas that are most profitable,” said Commissioner Rosenworcel. “Policymakers can take action to alleviate this, though. More unlicensed [bandwidth] democratizes access, is good for innovation, and is good for the economy as a whole.”

Technology

October 22, 2021
by Victoria Turner
Advocates Call for National Privacy Policy at FTC Open Meeting

The Federal Trade Commission should work with the U.S. Congress on drafting a comprehensive federal privacy law, instead of using... Read More

The Federal Trade Commission should work with the U.S. Congress on drafting a comprehensive federal privacy law, instead of using its rulemaking authority to do industry-specific regulation, according to three privacy policy advocates from three separate think tanks on Thursday at the FTC's open meeting. “Rather... Read More

October 19, 2021
by Victoria Turner
Industry Must Move Together as 5G Maps the Road Towards 6G

There was a time when 3D holographic communications was a fantasy; something depicted in George Lucas’s “Star Wars” movies but... Read More

There was a time when 3D holographic communications was a fantasy; something depicted in George Lucas’s “Star Wars” movies but far from everyday.  However, “what was once science fiction is now becoming reality,” said Andre Fuetsch, chief technology officer of AT&T, on Monday. Speaking at the... Read More

October 15, 2021
by Reece Nations
Tech Innovation ‘Fundamental Foundation’ of Feasibly Solving Climate Crisis

WASHINGTON -- The foundations of what could prove to be the next great innovations in climate change prevention technology were... Read More

WASHINGTON -- The foundations of what could prove to be the next great innovations in climate change prevention technology were laid out and dissected during a Brookings Institution webinar this week. Sanjay Patnaik, director of Brookings Center on Regulation and Markets, hosted a virtual discussion on... Read More

October 14, 2021
by Victoria Turner
Cybersecurity Experts Point to More Investment Needed in Detection, Response

WASHINGTON -- If everyone were to employ proper cyber hygiene like multi-factor authentication or not clicking on links in phishing... Read More

WASHINGTON -- If everyone were to employ proper cyber hygiene like multi-factor authentication or not clicking on links in phishing emails, more than 85% of cyberattacks would be prevented, said Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, Thursday.  “The best hack is the one that doesn’t happen,” King said... Read More

October 13, 2021
by Victoria Turner
BIPOC Entrepreneurs Work to Combat Inequities

Social entrepreneurship uses technology to bridge the gap between “cash-strapped” municipalities and local governments, said Gabriella Wong, CEO and founder... Read More

Social entrepreneurship uses technology to bridge the gap between “cash-strapped” municipalities and local governments, said Gabriella Wong, CEO and founder of AccesSOS, Tuesday.  Wong’s comment came during the Camelback Venture’s Guardian Summit panel discussion where she was joined by two other socially-driven app founders and executives... Read More

October 12, 2021
by Dan McCue
Boeing Close to Approval for Broadband Satellite Array

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Communications Commission is poised to consider an application from Boeing to launch and run an array... Read More

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Communications Commission is poised to consider an application from Boeing to launch and run an array of broadband satellites. Acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel circulated a proposal for voting on Boeing’s application last week. Industry watchers have said the fact Rosenworcel went... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top