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Thune: Additional Spectrum Needed For Nationwide 5G Deployment

“Winning the race to 5G will provide huge economic benefits for American businesses and American workers, and it will allow the United States to set security standards for telecommunications networks worldwide.”

March 10, 2020

Washington — 

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, today discussed additional steps the United States must take to ensure 5G technology is deployed expeditiously so that Americans across the country, particularly in South Dakota can reap the benefits of this new technology. It is imperative for the United States to free up additional spectrum, the airwaves over which digital information is shared, so Americans can experience full-scale 5G deployment. In 2018, Congress passed, and the president signed, Thune’s MOBILE NOW Act, which helped lay the groundwork to free up more mid-band spectrum for 5G. It was an important step in winning the race to 5G, but there is more work to be done.

Click here to watch Thune’s speech.

Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):


“Mr. President, the United States is poised for nationwide deployment of the next generation of internet technology – 5G.

“5G will mark a giant leap forward for internet technology, delivering speeds that are up to 100 times faster than what today’s technology can deliver.

“It will be vastly more responsive than 4G technology, and it will be able to connect 100 times the number of devices that can be connected with 4G.

“And while that will make it even easier to do the things we do today, like check our email or stream our favorite shows, the biggest benefits of 5G lie in the other technologies it will enable – precision agriculture, medical and surgical innovations, safer vehicles, and much more.

“Mr. President, 5G is already being deployed.

“Cities across the country – including Sioux Falls in my state – are introducing 5G networks.

“But there’s still work to be done before 5G can be fully implemented nationwide.

“And a big part of that work is freeing up adequate spectrum to support the technology.

“Like all internet technology, 5G relies on radio spectrum – what we commonly call the airwaves.

“In the United States, radio spectrum is owned by the American taxpayer, but is licensed to companies, who make use of the spectrum to broadcast TV and radio programs, connect cell phone calls, and transmit internet data.

“Radio spectrum is divided into bands – low-band, mid-band, and high-band – according to frequency and wavelength.

“Current wireless technology mostly relies on low-band spectrum.

“But 5G will require the full range of radio spectrum – low-band, mid-band, and high-band.

“The United States has done a good job freeing up high-band spectrum for 5G.

“But we still need to free up more mid-band spectrum to see full-scale 5G deployment.

“Mid-band spectrum is crucial for 5G.

“It combines strong data capacity with good geographical coverage, and allows 5G signals to penetrate buildings in more urban areas.

“And mid-band spectrum is particularly crucial for rural 5G deployment, as it can provide the coverage and capacity to reach less populated areas.

“As past chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee – and current chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet – I’ve been working on 5G for a number of years now.

“In 2018, Congress passed my MOBILE NOW Act, which helped lay the groundwork for freeing up more mid-band spectrum for 5G.

“And this past November, Senator Wicker and I introduced the 5G Spectrum Act to require the Federal Communications Commission to free up a critical portion of mid-band spectrum, commonly referred to as the C-band, for 5G use.

“While Congress did not enact our legislation, at the end of February the Federal Communications Commission announced that it would adopt a framework similar to that outlined in our bill to make 280 megahertz of C-band spectrum available for 5G.

“Currently, C-band spectrum is licensed by satellite companies, who use the spectrum to deliver programming for television and radio broadcasters, among other things.

“Under the FCC’s new rules, the majority of this mid-band spectrum will be made available to wireless companies for 5G.

“Satellite companies will still be able to provide all the services they’re currently providing by launching new satellites and investing in new technologies to make more efficient use of the C-band.

“And the licenses for the remaining portion of the C-band spectrum will be returned to the government, which will then offer up the spectrum to wireless companies in a public auction.

“Satellite companies will be reimbursed for the cost of relocating their operations to the upper range of the band.

“And they’ll be offered incentives for moving their operations quickly, so that space for 5G can be freed up as soon as possible.

“Mr. President, I was very pleased by the FCC’s decision, which I think provides the most expeditious and efficient way to free up the necessary mid-band spectrum for 5G.

“Some have argued that rather than reimbursing satellite companies, the government should just pull the satellite companies’ licenses.

“But there are a number of problems with that approach.

“First of all, while it’s true that radio spectrum is owned by the taxpayers, satellite companies have invested a lot of money to put the spectrum into service.

“While they will still have enough C-band spectrum to provide all their current services, shifting their operations to the upper portion of the band will require a substantial investment, and it is fair that they be reimbursed for this government-required shift.

“Furthermore, reimbursing companies – and providing incentives for them to quickly free up spectrum – is the fastest way to make that spectrum available.

“Simply demanding that companies relinquish their control of a substantial portion of the C-band could tie the government up in litigation for years, while countries like China take the lead on 5G.

“Finally, setting a precedent for the government to simply seize spectrum licenses would create a significant disincentive for technological investment.

“Why should companies invest major sums of money in bringing next-generation technologies to market if they’re likely to have the licenses on which those technologies depend seized without warning?

“The truth is that taxpayers will see a bigger return—for deficit reduction, rural broadband, and other priorities—if companies are incentivized to invest.

“Mr. President, the United States was at the head of the 4G revolution, and we need to ensure that we are at the head of the 5G revolution as well.

“Winning the race to 5G will provide huge economic benefits for American businesses and American workers, and it will allow the United States to set security standards for telecommunications networks worldwide.

“I’m very pleased that the FCC has acted to free up mid-band spectrum needed for full-scale deployment of 5G around the country.

“And I will continue to work to ensure that American companies and American workers have the resources they need to bring us into the 5G future.”