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White House announces spectrum auction to fuel 5G growth

By Alexandra Alper and David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, Aug 10 – The Trump administration on Monday unveiled plans to auction off 100 megahertz of midband spectrum previously dedicated to military purposes for commercial use starting in mid-2022, to ramp up fifth-generation network coverage in the United States.

The Federal Communications Commission will be able to auction this spectrum to companies like Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc from December 2021, and the wireless industry could be using it by summer of the following year, White House adviser and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios told reporters.

The move “allows us to maximize 5G availability of spectrum without compromising national security,” he said.

The military uses the spectrum for critical radar operations including air missile defense, Department of Defense Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy said.

Midband spectrum is seen as vital for 5G, because it offers both geographic coverage and the capacity to transmit large amounts of data, FCC chairman Ajit Pai has said.

The next-generation 5G wireless network is expected eventually to connect and enable high-speed video transmissions and self-driving cars, among other uses.

The FCC has been working to clear enough spectrum to make 5G networks a reality and ensure there is enough spectrum to handle the growing amount of internet and wireless traffic. This spectrum reassignment is part of that effort.

Pai on Monday praised the announcement, adding that the FCC was looking forward to moving quickly to adopt service rules to bring the spectrum to market.

“This is a key milestone in securing United States leadership in 5G,” Pai said.

In October 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum directing the Commerce Department to develop a long-term comprehensive national spectrum strategy to prepare for 5G wireless networks. Trump created the White House Spectrum Strategy Task Force and asked federal agencies to report on government spectrum needs and review how spectrum could be shared with private sector users.

U.S. wireless industry group CTIA also welcomed the announcement. “Opening up this critical block of mid-band spectrum for full power commercial operations will enhance U.S. competitiveness in the 5G ecosystem,” CTIA President and CEO, Meredith Attwell Baker, said in a statement. (Reporting by Alexandra Alper and David Shepardson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Rosalba O’Brien)

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