U.S. FCC will vote on 5G spectrum

Jun 20, 2016, 6:03 PM EDT
Cell tower. (Source: Ervins Stauhmanis/flickr)
Cell tower. (Source: Ervins Stauhmanis/flickr)

As the world looks to the next generation of wireless technology, 5G, many unanswered questions remain about what 5G networks will look like, who will own them, who will have access to them, and how they will be regulated. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has announced that it will vote on rules for opening spectrum for 5G wireless on July 14. Reuters reports:

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said if the FCC "approves my proposal next month, the United States will be the first country in the world to open up high-band spectrum for 5G networks and applications."
He said the FCC also will seek comments on opening other high-frequency spectrum bands.
Policymakers and mobile phone companies say the next generation of wireless signals needs to be 10 to 100 times faster and be far more responsive to allow advanced technologies like virtual surgery or controlling machines remotely.
The agency will do as it did with the development of 4G LTE and stay out of the way of industry innovators as they define and develop 5G technology, Wheeler added.
"Turning innovators loose is far preferable to expecting committees and regulators to define the future," he said. "Instead, we will make ample spectrum available and then rely on a private sector-led process for producing technical standards best suited for those frequencies and use cases."
Wheeler wants to be very clear that the FCC is not defining 5G. In fact, there's still no 5G standard. As Wheeler puts it, "If anyone tells you they know the details of what 5G will deliver, walk the other way."
So what exactly is the FCC's plan? Wheeler basically wants to leave it up to the market, as the commission did for 4G before it. The commission will open up a bunch of new wireless spectrum — which is what companies like AT&T and Verizon use to beam data from their towers to your cellphones — and then leave phone companies and other competitors to do what they'd like with it. The commission is pretty sure it'll all work out.