FCC Must Keep C-Band Auctions on Schedule

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided it would auction off a portion of spectrum to wireless internet providers. It is imperative that the FCC does not push back the planned December date so that 5G can be implemented as quickly as possible.

In February 2020, the FCC announced they would auction licenses in the 3.7-3.98 GHz band to cell phone providers. Known as C-band, this mid-band spectrum is currently held by satellite operators, who are willing to sell it so the space can be repurposed for 5G — the fifth-generation wireless broadband service. 5G is important for consumers because it has the ability to carry exponentially higher amounts of data than 4G. The speed, latency, and coverage of 5G networks will all surpass that of their predecessor.

The FCC has not been immune to the effects of the pandemic. COVID-19 added unexpected work to the FCC’s 2020 agenda, and the agency should not be tempted to postpone the date of the mid-band auction.

The process of repurposing mid-band spectrum into 5G is not a quick procedure at the best of times. It will likely take several years for wireless providers to incorporate widespread 5G use into their service, and so American consumers cannot afford additional delays.

Compared to 4G, the download speeds on the 5G network could be up to 60 times faster than on a 4G network. A season of Netflix that would take an hour to download on a 4G network could be done in several minutes on a 5G network. Consumers would benefit from faster speeds and more home broadband choices as soon as they started using 5G.

Smartphones are likely to change with the adoption of 5G. With some 5G smartphones already on the market, Android and Apple plan to include 5G chips in their new smartphones being released towards the end of 2020 and 2021. Going forward, 5G chip smartphones will start to replace 4G as the standard, encouraging further adoption of 5G.

Speed is not the only advantage that 5G offers over existing networks. Latency, or the lag time between a device and the network, is significantly lower on 5G. As consumers use cellular data more, lower latency networks will improve performance and efficiency of 5G devices.

5G also holds the key to unlocking new technologies. Self-driving cars, drones, and virtual reality technology can use the instantaneous responsiveness and widespread coverage of 5G networks to operate. Each of these developments will bring jobs and investment as they push new products to market.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has emphasized the urgency to move towards implementing 5G. The FCC is pursuing a strategy to Facilitate America’s Superiority in 5G Technology (FAST), which is focused on pushing more spectrum into the marketplace, updating infrastructure policy, and modernizing outdated regulations. December’s auction is a concrete attempt to achieving that first goal.

Jobs, innovation, and investment will all be a byproduct of widespread adoption of 5G networks. The process of implementing 5G networks will not quick, and a delay in giving wireless providers access to mid-band spectrum will substantially hamper progress. It is imperative that the FCC does not postpone the current December date so that 5G can stimulate the next wave of innovation in America.

Owen Macaulay is a policy intern with the American Consumer Institute, a nonprofit educational and research organization. For more information about the Institute, visit www.TheAmericanConsumer.org or follow us on Twitter @ConsumerPal

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